Directed by Milos Forman
Starring – Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher and Danny DeVito
When a criminal, R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), pleads insanity for crimes he has committed he is admitted to a mental hospital. There an oppressive nurse (Louise Fletcher) terrifies the patients into a monotonous daily routine where the punishments for not following the flow are brutal. Realising the nature of the staff to patient relationships, McMurphy takes it upon himself to rebel against the flow and shake things up a little.
Probably one of the oldest films on my blog so far it is by no means any less in quality, in fact it’s a classic. Set in the early 1960’s the film analytically is a massive Marxist commentary but outside of that it’s an emotional rollercoaster. With touching subjects and tragic backstories One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest relies on good performance and the film offers just that. Jack Nicholson is as always a roguish madman but with a sinister performance from Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched the two characters contrast each other and create some moments of real tension. The other mental patients are brilliantly portrayed meaning their backstories and motives are even more touching. With the age of the film some of the well known actors are almost unrecognisable, I’ve seen the film 3 times and only just realised Danny DeVito was in it as the cheerful Martini, but in a way it stops your focusing too much on the actors and more on the story which needs a lot of attention anyway.
The bulk of the film centres around a subtle power play between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched which allows for some interesting moments to take place and some very strong moments of performance. The audience can see exactly what the two characters are doing but the two characters are trying not to make it explicitly obvious to everyone else, so while the performances are subtle, the messages they convey are strong. The moments of tension are almost tangible and are contrasted so perfectly with the moments of fun between McMurphy and the rest of the patients.
It’s not a film you’re going to pick when you want a film night in with your mates and it’s definitely not a film you’d want to watch if you’re looking for a pick me up but it’s a thought provoking and subtle narrative. If you like films that make you want to think and debate then it’s well worth a go, just get the tissues ready.