Sunday, November 05, 2006

Top Ten List--One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975, Written by Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben; Based on the book by Ken Kesey; Directed by Milos Forman

The over-arching metaphor of the movie may be obvious, but it doesn't make it any less brilliant. The mental hospital that Jack Nicholson's Randle McMurphy finds himself in is a perfect microcosm of society. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) is the authority figure trying to bring conformity and rule-bound behavior at any cost, and McMurphy is the one trying to inspire those around him to question authority and revel in their individuality and ability to care for each other. At first, both viewpoint have their validity, but extending the metaphor, Ratched's position of power and authority slowly corrupts her and she bends the rules and then breaks them in order to remain in control. The down, yet hopeful ending, is the best part of the movie, as it gives the movie-level metaphor the ring of truth, as McMurphy and the inmates fail overall to overthrow authority, yet the struggle inspires The Chief to break free and make a go at living life. The story is filled with sadness, humor, anger, rebellion, little victories, and big defeats. In the end, there are very few movie metaphors that are so complete, so successful, so insightful, and so completely simple.

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