One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – 45th Anniversary Screening @ First Fortnite

This year is the 45th anniversary of the release of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.  Writer and broadcaster Ann Marie Hourihan tells us why the film is still relevant today.  The film screens in Donegal, Leitrim and Kildare as part of First Fortnight Festival, which makes the beginning of each year synonymous with mental health awareness, challenging prejudice and ending stigma.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest still feels fresh.  The film was released in 1975, it  was based on the novel written by Ken Kesey, published in 1962. But  its theme is eternal. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest is about control, that is social control. And it is also about the insanity of sanity.

When it first appeared the book – which also became a successful Broadway play-  was recognised  as a portrait of the individual against the system, of the fight between the old culture of conformity against the new alternative counter culture of which Ken Kesey was a enthusiastic member. He had also worked nights at the Palo Alto Veterans’ Hospital.

The film  is about mental illness as a form of protest against the madness of the world, and as a shelter from the world, and also as a punishment meted out by the world.   One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is set in  a mental hospital that functions because both sides – the staff and the patients – agree on this view and conform to it: “Medication time!”

Into this calm and desolate system comes R.P McMurphy who wants  to be incarcerated in a mental hospital rather than face time in jail. He has been convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a fifteen year old girl. McMurphy is unrepentant : “She was fifteen going on thirty five and she was very willing… no man could resist that.”

In fact throughout the film sex  (for men) is regarded as the cure for most things. Several of the patients have been  incarcerated precisely because the outside world does not allow them to have sex. Both Billy’s mother and Mr Hardy’s wife have forbidden their men sex and therefore, by implication, consigned them to the madhouse . On their hospital ward  they are dominated and patronised by Nurse Ratched, whom McMurphy quickly identifies as the enemy.

There are no female patients in this  hospital and there is only one non-white male on McMurphy’s ward : Chief, a Native American, played by Will Sampson. The male orderlies are all African-Americans. So  McMurphy has a group of white men to play with, and to bring pleasure to.  He cleans up at their card games, takes them fishing, tries to sharpen up their basket ball, and petitions for them to watch the World Series: “Come on, be good Americans”.

One of the greatest scenes in the film is when, although Nurse Ratched has forbidden patients to watch the World Series, R.P. McMurphy sits them down in front of a blank television screen and has them cheering at an imaginary baseball game whilst he provides a running commentary.

Most of the time though his fellow inmates are shy, obedient and terribly afraid. They don’t want any trouble and, as McMurphy discovers to his horror, the majority of them are voluntary inmates, free to leave whenever they want but reluctant to even try for liberty.

The film is brought to greatness by the actors portraying these patients. The stuttering Billy ( Brad Dourif), Danny DeVito as Martini, who eats the Monopoly pieces, and Cheswick, played by Sydney Lassick. Cheswick is full of despair as he protests at Nurse Ratched’s withholding of his cigarettes by sobbing “ I ain’t no little kid.”

The punishment for Cheswick’s outburst is swift and terrible, and we see clearly what McMurphy is only beginning to understand: that the relative calm of Nurse Ratched’s ward is based on a ruthless penal system just as bad as any prison’s.

In the book the story of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is narrated by the Chief – its title comes from a nursery rhyme from his childhood. At the end of the film McMurphy’s anarchy gives the Chief courage to start living again, although the system at the hospital remains  unchanged.

The director of  the film, Milos Foreman, had escaped to America from the Soviet totalitarianism in his native Czechoslavakia. He was determined that the film, before anything else, had to feel real. He and many of the film’s actors stayed at the Oregon State Mental Hospital where it was filmed. In fact Dr Spivey, who interviews McMurphy on his arrival, was played by Dr Dean Brooks, who was the director of the hospital. Other parts in the film were taken by real patients and staff. Even at the time of filming the mental health system’s attitude to incarceration was changing:   the population of Oregon State Mental Hospital had been fallen to just 600 patients. Some of the  film’s attitudes would not be tolerated now. But some things do not change and anyone with experience of the modern mental health system will identify with it. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest still feels all too real.

 

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest screens

04 January @ 20:00 Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair, Donegal
14 January @ 20:00 The Dock, Leitrim
16 January @ 20:00 The Riverbank , Kildare

 

First Fortnight utilises arts and culture to challenge mental health stigma while supporting some of Ireland’s most vulnerable people through creative therapies. 

In Ireland, one in four people are predicted to struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives.

 

www.firstfortnight.ie/

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Áine Stapleton, director of ‘Horrible Creature’

'Horrible Creature', Aine Stapleton

Áine Stapleton introduces us to her film Horrible Creaturewhich screens on Wednesday, 8th January 2020  at 18.30 at the IFI as part of IFI & First Fortnight January 2020.

Horrible Creature is the second part of a proposed trilogy of films about Lucia Joyce. It examines her life between 1915 and 1950 and is filmed at locations where she spent time in Switzerland. The first film, Medicated Milk, was inspired by Lucia’s diaries which she wrote at a psychiatric hospital in Northampton, England, between the 1960s and 1980s. 

Whereas Medicated Milk offers a more disembodied and fluid exploration of Lucia’s memories and dreams, Horrible Creature brings the body to the forefront and follows a linear structure of events. It meets Lucia during her earlier formative years and examines her education, dissension between her parents, childhood friendships, romantic relationships, her professional dance training, and ill-treatment suffered whilst in psychiatric care. It also looks at how memories of traumatic experiences can become clouded, repressed, and stored away in the body, but ultimately these subconscious and unconscious energies find expression through our feelings, dreams, and actions.

I began working on Horrible Creature directly after finishing Medicated Milk in 2015. I moved to Zurich, Switzerland, for one year and researched part-time at the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, which is directed by the legendary Fritz Senn. The Joyce family moved from Italy to Zurich in 1915, to escape the turmoil of WW1. Lucia later trained as a professional dancer in France and performed throughout Europe. She returned to Switzerland for psychiatric treatment in the 1930s, most famously with Carl Jung.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many firsthand accounts by Lucia from this time period. I revised the letters and diaries that I had gathered for Medicated Milk and searched various archives for earlier writings and letters of communication by Lucia, her friends, family, and doctors. I edited these texts to create a film script and a choreographic score. A choreographic score is a detailed language score, that is interpreted by performers through movements and vocalisations. For example, this score was filmed in the church at the Madonna Del Sasso monastery in Locarno – ‘She goes to the garden where she remains inaccessible. The garden is rather sad, but there are some beautiful colours and stained glass inside. She sits in the green like flowers on a grave, and is in sympathy with the present. The light here is wonderful so she can sing at last, and her bird song is a little monotonous. Her song is a reminder of a lifeless place.’

Horrible Creature is a retelling of Lucia’s life through the art form which was her passion and explores the transformative nature of dance. I was grateful to work with a cast of three diverse and outstanding dance artists from different countries – Michelle Boulé (USA), Sarah Ryan (IRE), and Céline Larrére (FR). We began our process by rehearsing in-studio at Dance Ireland, Dublin, and Culture D’arbois, located in the Jura mountains close to Geneva. Over a number of weeks, the performers embodied and reinterpreted the details of the language score. The score was also layered with experimental movement practices, that aim to cultivate present moment awareness. A separate voiceover was performed beautifully by Dublin based actresses Aenne Barr and Rebecca Warner. 

I acted as producer and searched for locations in Switzerland where Lucia spent time. I was provided with some archival materials including Swiss German school books from Lucia’s school years, and an old treatment machine from her psychiatric hospital. The school books contained lesson plans about war and nature. I combined these texts with imagery of mountainous landscapes and the dancers’ bodies, to further reference the effects of violence and human destruction of the natural world.

Lucia’s own dancing was also inspired by nature. She created a stunning fish costume for a performance in Paris, as well as playing the role of a tropical vine in a ballet. I worked with a fantastic Dublin-based Italian designer Ivan Moreno Bonica, to redesign these original costumes and other clothing from Lucia’s early life. 

Director of Photography was Will Humphris from England. Will is an extremely experienced cinematographer and I was thrilled to have an opportunity to work with him – plus massive thanks to Zoe at My Management for her support. It was Will’s first time working with dancers, but he remained constantly alert to the changeability of their movements and fully embraced the style of the project. The nature of the choreographic practice meant that both the dancers’ movements and their use of space altered with each take, so the performers and Will had to be extremely creative in their collaborations during the filming process. 

All of the venues, such as hospitals and schools, are still functioning in their original forms. Due to privacy and access limitations, as well as budget constraints, we filmed with a small crew of myself as director, DOP, and the three dance artists, over a nine-day shoot. We began at Lucia’s psychiatric hospital near Geneva, then drove across to Simplon Pass, a mountainous area where the Joyce’s crossed from Italy to Switzerland, Ticino, and finally up to Zurich and the surrounding districts. We filmed in early February, so both travel and filming conditions were a bit extreme at times. The dancers were exposed to varying weather conditions and environments – as well as my driving skills!. They worked diligently to practice the language score whilst remaining present and open to the energetic textures and histories present at each location. 

It was never my intention to create a solely historical account of Lucia’s life, so I didn’t alter the design of the locations much at all. I wanted to allow for a sense of connection between then and now. The buildings are all really stunning in their present conditions, and at Lucia’s school, for example, there was a beautiful display of student’s artwork from modern-day combined with 100-year-old science posters from Lucia’s school years. 

In post-production, I decided to first structure the entire film as a purely visual piece. I wanted each element of the production to have its own creative space and rhythm, before layering everything at the final stages. For me, this way of working adds a layer of tension to the work, which helps to sustain my interest as a viewer. This was quite a slow working process, and I spent a lot of time picking apart the footage before post-production. I worked on the edit with a good friend and wonderful editor / filmmaker José Miguel Jiménez, who I had worked with previously on Medicated Milk. 

A very beautiful and haunting soundtrack was created by Ed Chivers and David Best, two members of the British band Fujiya and Miyagi. The duo worked from extracts of Lucia’s writings and gained further inspiration from songs that she would have sung or played on the piano. As a choreographer, I’m not particularly interested in dance following music or vice versa, so Ed and David didn’t watch any of the footage until the last stages of their creation process. 

Horrible Creature premiered at the IFI in June 2019, and I’m delighted to present it again as part of the First Fortnight Festival. I’ve had an exciting and ongoing relationship with the First Fortnight team since they presented Medicated Milk at the IFI in 2016. I’m also curating a series of dance and wellness workshops in partnership with First Fortnight, Dance Ireland, and Galway Dance Project for the festival in 2020.

Horrible Creature is kindly funded by The Arts Council of Ireland, The Embassy of Ireland in Switzerland, with additional support from Arts & Disability Ireland, Dance Ireland, The James Joyce Centre, The Ticino Film Commission, Zurich James Joyce Foundation, Tanzarchiv Zurich, and FringeLab. Thanks to everyone who offered advice and support during the making of the work. I’d also like to say a big thank you to Sunniva O’ Flynn and the IFI team for their ongoing support of my film work. 

 

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Áine Stapleton.

Book tickets here.

 

 

 

Interview: Áine Stapleton, director of ‘Medicated Milk’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First Fortnight

 

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First Fortnight is Ireland’s unique festival of events aimed at challenging mental health stigma, running from 1st January across Dublin and nationwide.

 

Now in its seventh year, the 2016 First Fortnight mental health arts festival will see film, live music, spoken word, theatre, discussion, dance and other arts events staged to create open discussion and understanding of mental health problems, and challenge prejudice and discrimination.

 

This year’s film programme includes the European premiere of documentary study of PTSD Buried Above Ground at Science Gallery Dublin; nationwide screenings of Love & Mercy – an unconventional portrait of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson starring Paul Dano; Rory Culkin’s star turn in Gabriel at the IFI; and for younger audiences, a chance to explore the themes raised by the film Inside Out in workshops on 1st January.

 

GABRIEL

Saturday 2nd January | 4pm | Irish Film Institute

Rory Culkin stars in Gabriel, a heartfelt portrait of a vulnerable teen at his psychological breaking point, struggling to keep it together in the wake of his father’s suicide. Convinced that reuniting with an ex-girlfriend holds the answers to his troubles, Gabriel risks everything in a desperate pursuit that will take him to uncharted places and test the limits of those closest to him. Infused with authenticity, Gabriel establishes first time writer/director Lou Howe as a new filmmaking voice to be reckoned with.

 

 

Suitable for age 18+

Tickets are 10 euro and available via www.firstfortnight.ie / www.ifi.ie

 

LOVE & MERCY

Monday 11th January 8pm | Nationwide screenings and post-show discussions

Love & Mercy presents an unconventional portrait of Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys. Set against the era-defining catalog of Wilson’s music, the film intimately examines the personal voyage and ultimate salvation of the icon whose success came at extraordinary personal cost. Starring Paul Dano, John Cusack, Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy examines two key periods in Wilson’s life. In the 1960s, as the Beach Boys’ leader, Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece, Pet Sounds. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy. Not to be missed.

 

 

Contact venues for tickets:

Pavilion, Dún Laoghaire

69 O’Connell St. Limerick

Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray

Town Hall Centre, Galway

UCD Student Cinema, Dublin

Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise

Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge*

*January 22 at 8pm

 

BURIED ABOVE GROUND – European Premiere

Thursday January 14th | 6pm | Science Gallery, Naughton Institute, Pearse Street, Dublin 2

First Fortnight, in association with Science Gallery Dublin,  presents the European premiere of Buried Above Ground, an acclaimed documentary bringing to light the global health condition, PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by sharing the journeys of three Americans wrestling with the aftermath of devastating events.

A U.S. army captain learns to cope with his inner war wounds. Hurricane Katrina evacuee Ashley pledges to rebuild her home while she rebuilds herself. Erundina fights to stay sober after surviving child abuse and domestic violence.

Filmed over six years, with intimate access to these survivors as they unburden themselves of the past, Buried Above Ground pays tribute to the human spirit.

 

Suitable for an audience aged 18+

Tickets are 5 euro and available via www.firstfortnight.ie

 

And for younger audiences:

 

HELLO MYSELF

Inside Out Children’s Workshops

Friday 1st January| 12 noon, 2pm & 4pm| Smock Alley Theatre, 6/7 Exchange Street Lower, Dublin 8

This year the First Fortnight programme will include a very special event for children aged 6-12, called “Hello Myself.”  Experienced storyteller, artist and workshop facilitator, Paul Timoney has created a bespoke workshop for children aged 6-12 around the themes explored in Inside Out, the film that animated Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear – the little voices inside our heads. Attendees will accompany Paul on his adventure exploring the vast landscape of Emotion. The children will be enlisted to help create art to assist Paul in telling this tale. The workshop is designed to encourage children to learn to express themselves verbally or through creative means.

Suitable for ages 6-12

Tickets are 10 euro and available via www.firstfortnight.ie

Presented in association with New Year’s Festival Dublin.

 

About First Fortnight

First Fortnight is an arts-based mental health awareness project run by a core group of seven volunteers that happens in the first two weeks of every year. This is the seventh year it has been staged, although it is its fifth year in its current format as a 10-day arts festival. An awareness campaign in the First Fortnight of the year works because we are all a little raw that time of year and more likely to be open to an empathic response. We expect the First Fortnight of every year to be synonymous with mental health awareness and ending stigma. The First Fortnight charity also runs the First Fortnight Centre for Creative Therapies, which provides an art psychotherapy service to adults with experience of homelessness or at risk of homelessness. First Fortnight 2016 is grant aided by ESB: Energy For Generations, The Arts Council, Dublin City Council and HSE Mental Health Services.

 

 

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