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Crazy Made Reel An Exposé on Mental Illness in Film

chalked full of venomous, primary actors, perpetuating the myth that mentally ill equates horrific results.

But it’s not only the patients themselves who are sometimes misrepresented. “Many of the portrayals of psychiatrists in movies are not very realistic and not very flattering. It might be amusing, but it’s not the kind of depiction that leads you to respect the professional practitioner,” Dr. Latimer explained.

Last summer two of Polanski’s films, Repulsion and Le locatair, joined the line-up of Frames of Mind, an on-going mental health series featured at Vancouver’s popular Pacific Cinematheque. The rough edges of Polanski’s psychological thrillers attached themselves to the series by relaying that, in some cases, the non-plausible can become plausible.

Frames of Mind, shown monthly since 2002 and stretched into an annual film festival, allows field professionals the use of cinematography to capture the fragility of the mentally unstable, while educating the masses that, through the average cliché, there lives a real person. Normal is in the mind of the beholder. We tend to forget that.

Sanity is the mid-point on a sliding scale of fineness. “I’m fine”. “Everything’s fine”. “It’ll all work out… fine”. At one end is what “they” refer to as eccentric – this is usually attached to an older, unmarried woman with twelve too many cats, or a fuzzy-haired man who collects light bulbs. Crazy is the lateral opposite. It doesn’t depend on whether you collect things that meow or illuminate, it’s a place, not a person. It’s a one-way ticket to Hell in some cases. And, in this dizzying, bottomless pit there are side-roads, junctures, and roundabouts of labels: Schizophrenic, borderline, bi-polar, clinically depressed, obsessive-compulsive, dissociative, just to name a few.

Some people are born into mental disorder. Some, however, can experience it in a sudden rush, a snap in their normal day-to-day existence, and suddenly be faced with a very alien and unrecognizable world.

Mental illness, though an obvious trend in big blockbuster productions, became a theme in film back in the 20’s with a silent, German-made movie, Secrets of a Soul, was based on an actual patient treated by Freud. From there, the brilliant minds of Hitchcock, Kubrick and Polanski stepped centre stage showcasing their sublime and chilling tales of mentally disordered characters. Modern day cinema wouldn’t be the same without Psycho and The Shining. That said, the baseline theme is

As always, Hollywood has taken its shot at the can, making crazy a popular theme by turning out such multi-million dollar, award-winning productions as Girl, Interrupted (based on the autobiographical book by Susanna Kaysen). More recently Jamie Fox’s portrayal of musical prodigy, Nathanial Ayers, who is plagued by paranoid schizophrenia in his second year at Julliard, becomes a reminder of the slippery slope of mental illness. From genius to homeless, the transition is seamless as experienced by the person suffering the disease. To most everyone else, everything is disjointed and perplexing.

All too often, mentally ill patients are discarded by so-called active members of society, by authority measures and health services. The rudimentary cause becomes a series of dominoes. And, one by one they tip over. Medication only works when taken, and hospitals are only beneficial when their doors are kept open. A flawed government will ultimately breed a flawed social system. We forget that not everyone living in street squalor is a tweaker or crack-head.

A study published in a 2008 edition of The Province, reported that 33% of Vancouver’s homeless had some type of mental illness. Dr. Paul Latimer, a Kelowna psychiatrist, attributes the increased homelessness to deinstutionalization, a movement that supported the idea of giving treatment on an out-patient basis. “I think it’s very easy for governments to focus on money-saving aspects of change rather than looking at the big picture: save the money and put that money we save into community

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