Directed by : Milos Forman.
Screenwriters : Bo Goldman, Lawrence Hauben.
Cast : Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito, Brad Dourif, William Redfield, Will Sampson.
Adapted from the acclaimed novel (and play) by counter-culture author Ken Kesey comes a film about an ebullient rebellious and somewhat violent newly arrived inmate R.P. McMurphy (Nicholson) of an insane asylum who has exhausted the patience of the criminal justice system. His many attempts to humanise the inmates sets him on a collision course with the well meaning but hard hearted and hard headed Nurse Ratched.
One of the few cases of a film doing justice to a famous book and this was recognised by the Academy in that the film deservedly swept the Oscars, winning all five major gongs. While the two central roles share fascinating screen chemistry, the underplaying of Louise Fletcher and the pyrotechnics of Jack Nicholson, the acting elsewhere is supreme even in the smaller apparently insignificant roles. While Fletcher has unfortunately all but disappeared from our screens it is in this performance that Nicholson reaches a career defining winning performance, in a career of iconic portrayals.
The director Milos Foreman brings an outsiders perspective to the mores and little hypocrisies of this institution and by implication American society. Nowhere in the film is a false note struck, even the one scene that takes place outside the institution is a brief glimpse of the life these guys have been denied or may still have and is a relieving interlude for both them and us from the oppressive institution. The inmates despite their differing level of ‘sanity’ are seen as real human beings, as we see them through the cynical but non judgemental eyes of McMurphy.
Thankfully through theses same eyes we see the petty bureaucracy of the asylum as represented by Nurse Ratched and the asylum authorities, at least Nurse Ratched cares enough to be involved unlike the detached authorities as represented by the doctors and board. While the anti-authoritarian message is clear the film is never preachy and there are no perfect stereotypes on either side of the argument. Take for instance the match on television scene, has any other film illustrated so powerfully and simply the power of seemingly impotent protest.
There are other memorable scenes that I think make this one of the best films of cinematic naturalism ever made. If you have not seen ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST yet, where have you been? In an institution? What do you think about this movie. Share your thoughts in comments.
MoviesCrunch Rating – 9/10