Wednesday, January 10, 2018
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Watched this again recently for the first time in years and am still processing the film's powerful effect. It's one of the great counterculture statements put on film and just as relevant as ever (if not more so) -- an explosive indictment of institutional abuse, the scourge of authoritarianism, and societal pressure to conform and obey.
Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched is the personification of "the system", of cold, heartless authoritarianism, enforcing the rules at the expense of the humanity of her patients. Her cool, calm demeanor belies her sadistic nature and one can sense the pleasure she derives from wielding her power over the patients in her ward.
Jack Nicholson's McMurphy is an explosive force that upsets the order of hierarchy and turns authority on its head, a non-conformist who fights the system but is ultimately crushed by it. Even though he represents a triumph of individualism, it is his concern for the happiness of his fellow men that reveals the hypocrisy of the institution supposedly responsible for caring for them and wakes them up to rebel against the injustices and humiliations they suffer under authoritarian control.