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The Snake Pit (1948) [Jun. 7th, 2010|01:06 pm]
••••• CINEMA TOAST •••••


MOVIE TITLE: The Snake Pit
STARRING: Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, & Leo Genn
Basically: The story of a woman who wakes up in an insane asylum with no memory of why she's there and her struggle to find reality in such an inhumane and frightening environment.

Review is not too spoilery.

The movie itself is interesting, if somewhat predictable. The viewer sees things from two points of view: that of Virginia, the patient, and Dr. Kick, her psychiatrist who works with Virginia's husband to find clues to the cause of her illness while protecting Virginia's best interests from the bureaucracy of the over-crowded and under-funded Asylum.

Not surprisingly given the time period, the psychology of the film is very Freudian. In one particular LOL-worthy moment, the director painstakingly includes a framed portrait of Sigmund Frued in the frame during the entire climactic scene in which Dr. Kick and Virginia discover the cause behind her breakdown. It was like "yeah... I get it, Frued, we all have penis envy." While I don't agree with every aspect of Freud's theories, the psychology in the movie seems at least plausible from a layman's point of view (it would be interesting to hear a modern-day psychologist's take on it).

Olivia de Havilland is emotive and sympathetic as Virginia; I could relate to the character even when what she's doing didn't make much sense. The actress, along with the director and other cast members, visited real mental institutions in preparation for filming. After the film came out she and the director addressed critics' doubts of how to true to life the story was by actually saying "yes that happens and yes, I witnessed it myself," rather than just relying on second-hand accounts from former patients. That makes Virginia's experience all the more chilling, and at some points I found myself thinking "what if this happened to me?" It was great to see a movie with an entertaining fictional story that also made its audience aware of the plight of the mentally ill (the film and the novel on which it's based are credited with at least influencing some reform legislation of the time). Even today, it reminds us that we need to take care of each other.

Says here you're nuts