Girl, Interrupted: A unique portrayal of mental illness
“Have you ever confused a dream with life? Or stolen something when you have the cash? Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the 60s. Or maybe I was just a girl… interrupted.”
A dramatic and impactful insight into a mental institution set in the 1960’s, Girl, Interrupted delves into the experiences of writer Susanna Kaysen and her inner struggles which resulted in an 8 month reside in Claymoore Hospital, following a suicide attempt which lead to her being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Through the innovative cinematography, we view this unfamiliar (to some) and disconcerting experience from her perspective; sharing her own fear and uncertainty in the world we are suddenly immersed in.
Throughout the story, we not only uncover more depth into Susanna, but a diverse assortment of patients that she co-habits with, each with a distinct and idiosyncratic character which are revealed at various points throughout the film.
Susanna, thrown from the chaos and turmoil caused by her worsening mental state, struggles with her stay at the hospital, but soon grows accustomed to the regular procedures and routines, keeping an account of her day and thoughts. She befriends many patients; including the assertive and domineering Lisa, a sociopath laden with rebellious hate and inner demons of her own.
The film explores the subject of mental illness in its own unique and emotive way; harbouring the same dark tone as the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but also balancing the traumatic and disturbing scenes with humorous elements as well as insightful and self-affirming messages. This makes this film enjoyable – and not harrowing – to watch.
The dramatic power obtained in this movie, for me, is mainly due to the impressive and authentic portrayals given by both female leads, Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. Angelina Jolie’s representation of Lisa’s oppressing and forceful temperament is boundless and has rightfully won her praise from critics and numerous awards.
Based on Susanna Kaysen’s memoirs, Girl, Interrupted deviates a little from the book , but due to the duration of the film, it allows more detail to be explored that is lacking in Kaysen’s book.
Girl, Interrupted also highlights the way the girls identify with each other’s difficulties, desires and hopes, ultimately conveying the importance and worth of life, trust and friendship. A captivating and enlightening account to watch, I highly recommend this film, but a warning – it can be triggering.
Have you seen Girl, Interrupted, or any other films covering mental illness? What did you think of them? Leave your comments below.