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Examining a movie which has been thought about a timeless by contemporary judgment by the academy awards committee is constantly hard. Milos Forman’s, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is one such movie which has actually won vital claim winning five Oscars consisting of Finest Movie, Finest Director, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Actress (Louise Fletcher) and Movie Script (Bo Goldman). (Forman, 1975). The director and the cast is obviously well recognizable so are maybe the characters to those who have actually read the book of the exact same name by Ken Kessey.
This has nevertheless been artistically adapted in the film resulting in the screen play also winning an Oscar in its category. The performing, music and the film score are therefore perfect though not necessarily without areas for improvement while the technical criteria of lighting, noise and electronic camera work is likewise befitting this film which will stay a classic of its times. Without denying the director and the stars of their credits, it would be sensible to seriously analyze aspects which might have been forecasted differently or improved upon.
Randle Patrick McMurphy (Nicholson) the principal protagonist in the film is a bad guy who declares himself ridiculous while serving a reasonably brief jail term with a view to prevent the misery and discomfort of jail life. He winds up in a mental asylum run by a nurse who is considered a tyrant by her clients as she works out overall control over them. Nurse Ratched’s (Fletcher) impact is even more telling on those clients who have come to the asylum voluntarily rather than for treatment of a mental disorder.
Therefore their submission has actually been institutionalised by the need for suggestions of Ratched for their release and treatment such as shock treatments which would be excruciating for normal individuals. McMurphy’s induction into this scenario was bound to create friction for he is an everlasting defiant, bounder who however is invulnerable that many of his fellow mates just as he himself are fabricating treatment. As in such establishments friendships develop and McMurphy is drawn towards Billy Bibbit (Dourif) a guy with suicidal tendencies and Chief Bromden (Sampson) the original storyteller of the plot in the book.
Bromden is a schizophrenic and a native America who is respected for his size rather than his physical infirmities being deaf and dumb. While McMurphy and Bromden are defiant towards Nurse Ratched’s domineering attitude Bibbit is submissive. Their friendship develops particularly when McMurphy discovers that Bromden is faking deafness. Thus he lets him know his plans for escape. On a late winter night, McMurphy enters clandestinely into the nurse’s station and calls his girl friend to assist him in escape.
The girl comes with her friend who is seduced by Billy. When the binge ends, the wreckage of the party is noticeable leading to heavy reprimand by Ratched principally directed at Billy. Being weak and also perhaps guilty, Billy commits suicide, in turn leading to McMurphy going into a violent rage and strangling Ratched almost to her death. A lobotomy operation is carried out on McMurphy whose plight leads the Chief to strangle him with a pillow before making good his escape from the asylum to Canada.
The plot of the movie is generally based on the book, though the screen play adaptation does not provide centrality to the role of the narrator, Bromden (Sampson), a fact rued by the author (Kessey) who had written the book based on real life characters in a mental asylum. The theme explores multiple strands, escapism represented by people voluntarily declaring themselves as insane and getting admitted in a mental asylum, politics of such establishments, power of the nurses and how it is ruthlessly exercised and the desperation of individuals caught within the rot in such systems.
It is indeed a very complex plot to portray and the director has done justice in most parts of the film. The actors in their roles have been near perfect, with McMurphy very aptly portrayed by Nicholson including the naivete on entering the asylum, inability to understand the complex relationships that emerge and power games that he plays with Ratched. Fletcher as the demonic tyrant and prima donna of an asylum is also just right. So are the other supporting actors.
For those who have read the book as well as seen the film, the exception of not viewing it through narration by Chief Bromden may appear striking, but for others it would not be that relevant. This was also seen as a notable flaw in the movie by the author, Kessey apart from wrong casting of Nicholson as McMurphy, though the critical acclaim received by the actor should lead us to overlook the writer’s comments as being too attached to the original script. There are instances however when Forman tends to stray from the main theme and the digressions prove to be not just unconvincing but also greatly weaken the plot.
The suicide by Billy is inappropriately portrayed and results in creating an impact of an imposition on the viewer which is not effectively weaved in the plot. The fishing trip on a stolen boat is perhaps the weakest link as it takes the plot on an indefinable course. The scene with all the principals on the deck of a fishing boat looks totally incongruous and the intent of the director is not discernible. Despite these infirmities, this is one movie which cannot be missed by any American. Reference: 1. Forman, Milos. (1975). One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
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