Through the decades of the 1940s and 1950s in America, societal monotony with its binary vision and easy moral choices began to change into a complex and uncomfortable nation of people, thanks in part to a revolutionary foray into areas of literary taboo in movies and in books such as Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place.
Ordinary people are capable of the extraordinary. British author Lissa Evans believed that with her heart and soul and set out to prove it by creating her own piece of greatness. The road to achievement is often paved with books; and Lissa, an avid reader, navigated her own course.
Let me just say this first—Jack Nicholson’s performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is absolutely mesmerizing. His astonishing portrayal of R.P. McMurphy is a reason One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest stays with you long afterwards.
Nurse Ratched, the character that actress Louise Fletcher made bigger than the movie itself, is another reason this movie stays long in your mind. I knew Nurse Ratched Continue reading Evil Nurse Ratched→
Was the film a metaphor about society? . . . To which Forman replies, it was more ‘a metaphor for any kind of modern society today,’ as it revealed ‘how far has the power the right to crush an individual who is questioning the rules.’
—Gallagher, Dangerous Minds
Do we call them “crimes of insanity” when associating crimes involving illegal drug use and criminal behavior? Does anyone ever think about One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and associate that movie with the American ’60s counterculture? Ken Kesey, author of the novel from which the movie was adapted (1963) , was a Stanford student and an acid-head during the days of Haight-Ashbury and Woodstock. Would knowing that change your perspective on what he communicated? . . . or why? Continue reading One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the Crimes of Insanity→
For some apolitical men, a conscientious few, ideas need not have a practical application. They are of intrinsic worth. The advantage to be gained by exploiting an idea is of no concern. These men love ideas for the sake of wisdom, tranquility, and transcendence; Zhivago was such a man
—Ian Bloom, Illumined Illusions
I remember observing out loud to Lucy after she and I had tallied the votes for the Fall Film Competition, that the four top films seemed lacking in commonality except for their dates of release. But of course, as I expressed last month, it began to occur to me that a theme for these films might be “social defiance.”
Don’t you wonder why humans are drawn to such stories? Do we all feel powerless at the core, no matter our social position or beneficial characteristics? Jesus of Nazareth and certainly his followers too were defiant. Many stories in the Hebrew scriptures describe defiant acts or defiant people. Each of us would likely be proud to carry a reputation of standing up to oppressors, if we could do this in a way that resulted in positive influence without inspiring violence. Is this fantasy part and parcel of the human race, or have we assumed this mantle because of stories and films that have such outcomes and satisfying endings?
Boris Pasternak, man of privilege
Boris Pasternak, son of Russian artists and the author of the novel on which our movie is based, was a man of privilege, a celebrated writer of poetry and prose who lived through—and whose life was directly affected by—enormous social turmoil and political change. He was born in Moscow in 1890 into a Jewish family and studied philosophy at the University of Moscow.
We might imagine that Pasternak set out to influence others quietly and peacefully by revealing the realities of the Revolution through his writing, instead of possibly attempting to foment retaliation in kind. Through the character of Yuri Zhivago, he showed a model of humanity where caring for others rose above slaughtering people who disagreed. This is a political stance many Americans adhere to according to our vision of democracy.
But, Pasternak was not free to express himself as he might have wished. Prior to the enduring global acclaim from Doctor Zhivago, he first achieved public recognition through his poetry, published during the period between 1913-1922. However, his writing was judged to be inconsistent with Communist “socialist realism;” therefore, Doctor Zhivago was rejected out of hand as unacceptable for publication. Read more about socialist realism . . .
Insight for film groups, critics, scholars, and fans