21 July 2007

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

A lot of people out there will laugh at me when I say that I just watched One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest for the first time yesterday. Starring Jack Nicholson in a role that most people would have wished were theirs, the film won five academy awards including the Best Picture.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ken Kesey, an American author who was related to both the Beat Group and the hippies movement in 1960s, the film centres around Randle P. Mcmurphy, a ex-con who fakes his insanity and moves into a mental asylum. As opposed to what you might have guessed, he does not eventually turn out to be a nut case, but a humanitarian with a heart of gold (well, I couldn't help feeling that Jack Nicholson was too cynical to play this sentimental role). Randle sympathises with his co-inmates, only to realise that their condition only gets worse under the supervision of the evil matriarch, Nurse Ratched, who (in a gender paradox) symbolises Lacan's The-Name-Of-the-Father -- a tyrannical dictator who has the right to decide the inmates' fates. Whether she had a bad childhood is not known, but one gets the feeling that she enjoys ruling this madhouse with her errily calm posture.

Anyway, the film does pretty well in confounding our expectation, making us think who's really mad and how much madness is a way society marginalises people in various terms. Many people would've survived fine in the real world, yet they have been discriminated against and labelled as mad, purely because their way of life is not sanctioned by most people in society. Hence most 'mad' people in this film are those that cannot keep pace with the developmental phases society has assigned them to move on. Billy is a case in point, when he is not able to express his love. When he's got the chance of his lifetime to sleep with Randle's girlfriend, Nurse Ratched (I don't know whether it's designed to rhyme faintly with 'wretched', but if it's so, it's soooo out in the face!) intervenes and paradoxically uses her therapy to stunt his development. Randle can also be regarded as 'mad' in this sense, when his status as a conman does threaten the smooth progress of society as a whole. Being a conman is not essentially an immoral thing, according to Nietszche, but it's contextually unethical in the framework of capitalism where people expect to reap what they sow, not what other people sow. The concept of propriety and ownership is thus vital to the ethics of capitalism, as it enables, and (more importantly) urges, people to compete. Randle, a Robin Hood archetype, is too 'nice' and cares too much about people around him, sharing things with them, even his girlfriend. It's no wonder why he poses such a threat to capitalist society and should be got rid of.

Well, I won't tell you the ending this time whether society (as represented by the authorities of the madhouse) does manage to do away with Randle or not, but it is one of the most sentimental films that does raise a lot of questions that still remain unanswered to this day.

1 comment:

Mat said...

Her name was actually chosen because it evoked 'rat shit'.