Films: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (New Vic)

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


  • Fortnight Publications Ltd.

    Films: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (New Vic)Review by: Robert JohnstoneFortnight, No. 129 (Jun. 18, 1976), p. 16Published by: Fortnight Publications Ltd.Stable URL: .Accessed: 24/06/2014 22:47

    Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

    .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


    Fortnight Publications Ltd. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Fortnight.

    This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 22:47:24 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


    at one act festivals are Winners j

    and Losers, which are not really I one act plays at all, being the g two parts of Brian Friel's Lovers. ] Ulster's newest drama group, i

    the Posthorn Players, winners of

    the Belfast Festival, presented Losers. Andy and Hannah are i

    middle-aged lovers whose at

    tempts at courtship are frustrat

    ed by Hannah's bed-ridden .

    mother. Denis Smyth pointed out that there was a great

    danger of playing this as farce, while Friel wrote it as a humorous play with sad

    undertones. The company were

    inclined to overplay and lapse into domestic comedy. He

    praised Richard Mills' control and excellent timing. Lilian

    Levers as the mother was suit

    ably tyrannical. Slemish Players were the

    winners, and will represent Northern Ireland at Colwyn Bay on 26 June. Denis Smyth summed up by saying that the

    evening was an interesting pro

    gramme which had given him a

    chance to reassure his feelings towards contemporary drama.

    Roy Larmour





    (New Vic) The reviews said that Milos

    Forman's new film was an

    allegory. So I expected to find

    the mental hospital presented as

    a microcosm of society. We're

    all mad or have to feign madness

    to get by, nurses represent

    authority, and so on. But One

    Flew Over is more impressively

    complex and fresher than I'd

    expected from the reviews.

    While the socio-political meta

    phor stands up, there are other,

    subtler, and perhaps more

    interesting analogies to be

    drawn from it.

    Ken Kesey, upon whose novel

    the film is loosely based, was one of the heralds of psyche delia. He and his pranksters,

    equipped with LSD and day-glo, inhabited the magic bus Tom

    Wolfe chronicled in The Electric

    :.+~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ :.. ..: .. ..:+

    s:.+~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~.. . . ...... ...:

    Kool-Acid Test. The interest is,

    not surprisingly therefore, not

    only in the political undertones

    but also in the mental tricks we

    learn to cope with other people and with the personal restric

    tions they impose. Or perhaps I

    should say the interest of the

    screenwriters, since Kesey dis

    owns the film and is suing Forman and Co. Maybe he

    regrets his youthful disregard of

    square things like copyright. When McMurphy (Jack Nic

    holson) is transferred from a

    prison farm to the hospital,

    although he's not even techni

    cally insane but shamming, he

    begins to disrupt the placid routine. He conducts a guerilla

    war against martinette Nurse

    Ratched and her soul-destroying adherence to discipline. His

    point fe that "the rules" mean

    everybody has to be miserable

    because it would be too much

    trouble to change for a few.

    Soon the patients?at least

    those who can communicate at

    all, which is exactly half?take

    him as their champion and rely on him for their enjoyment. His

    efforts to bring things to life offers them self-respect. They have surrendered that, most

    being voluntary patients, but

    gaining confidence from Mc

    Murphy they begin to ask why they acquiesce.

    One of the several outstanding achievements of the film is the

    way Forman makes the loonies

    interesting and likeable without

    watering down their lunacy (it's a very funny film), and at the

    same time presenting Ratched

    as the dreaded hateful bitch the patients see in counterpoint to

    the conscientious nurse who

    tries desperately to control 18

    madmen while carefully conceal

    ing her growing emotional

    involvement with them as

    people, not just cases.

    The acting is superb, but

    Nicholson ?of course! ? , Will

    Sampson as Chief Bromden and

    Louise Fletcher as Ratched are

    extra special. Forman and his

    actors studied a real mental

    hospital, even using actual

    patients and staff, and the totally credible naturalism shows the


    However, I'd just like to note a

    dissatisfaction. Because the film

    is so uncompromisingly accurate

    about the surface of lunatic

    asylums, the implication of the

    plot that McMurphy's disruption is beneficial seems even more

    dubiods in context. And as the

    hippies, Kesey's heirs, discover

    ed in the wider society, a good heart and revolutionary spirit are

    not enough on their own to

    guarantee any lasting good. The

    authority of Nurse Ratched is by and large for the patients' bene

    fit, even more than Jim

    Callaghan or Gerry Ford think

    they are acting on our behalf. Or

    maybe Forman, an exiled Czech, was thinking of the Prague Spring being snuffed out by Russian tanks when he filmed the aftermath of lobotomy. Power is not only tyranny over

    the few (or the many) however well-intentioned, but also a

    temptation to arbitrary and

    unnecessary crime.

    While I'm on the subject of

    misleading reviews, and while I

    have the power of print, I can't

    resist the temptation to chuck a

    squib at the Belfast Telegraph cinema critic. When previewing

    Night Moves (at the Avenue last week) he gave the impression that its co-feature Turkish

    Delight (directed by Paul Verhoeven) was a run-of-the

    mill skinflick. Don't see it he counselled. While the title and

    the posters gave that impression

    anyone who had actually seen it

    would have known what an

    interesting film it really was.

    Robert Johnstone




    The Arts Council of Northern Ireland issued a statement last

    week to the effect that they

    accepted the recommendation

    of an independent working

    party's report on the provision of

    orchestral music in Northern Ire

    land. The Arts Council now has

    to see whether the recommen

    dation can ever become more

    than merely that. What is

    advocated in the report is, in its

    own words, a 'merger of the

    BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra

    with the Ulster Orchestra under

    a new independent management with a guaranteed contract of

    BBC broadcasts (say, 48 with the full orchestra and 48 with a

    Chamber Orchestra each year) for a long-term period.' Now to

    some extent we have been here

    before, and it's hard to be all that

    sanguine about the prospects of

    getting any agreement between

    the various interested bodies.

    But it might be worth setting out the thinking behind the report's

    main conclusions, as one of the

    most important interested bod

    ies is any potential audience.

    It must be said that the Report is a thoroughly workmanlike

    This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 22:47:24 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

    Article Contentsp. 16

    Issue Table of ContentsFortnight, No. 129 (Jun. 18, 1976), pp. 1-20Front MatterIllusions and Solution [p. 2-2]Deadline August [p. 3-3]Housing: Waiting for the Action [pp. 4-5]Negotiated Independence: A Talks Aperitif [p. 5-5]Determined to Talk [p. 6-6]Emigration and Unemployment [pp. 6-7]Ulster's Top Twenty Businessmen [p. 8-8]Directory of Ulster's Top Businessmen [pp. 9-12]The Practising Anarchist [pp. 13, 19]ReviewsBooksReview: untitled [p. 14-14]Review: untitled [p. 14-14]Review: untitled [pp. 14-15]

    Review: Theatre [pp. 15-16]Review: Films: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (New Vic) [p. 16-16]Review: Music [pp. 16-18]Review: Art [p. 18-18]

    Letters [p. 18-18]Sidelines [p. 19-19]Ulster Crossword [p. 20-20]


View more >