It was the height of boredom and loneliness which you get when living in a strange place, in a dimly lit melancholy hotel-room without internet or Discovery channel -and no kitchen or microwave either, that you get get to try something less mundane – like popping into the nearby movie-store – however expensive it might seem and renting a movie you've always wanted to see but never got to.
'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' was one such extragavance – the first thing that strikes you is simply the way it touches your heart – it's a sad sad story inside a lunatic asylum – true I've seen lots of them in Hindi and most notably in Malayalam – but none has made such a lasting impression as this one- I've watched it twice in the last two days – and the montage of all the characters fits in so aptly that it is a solved jigsaw – except that does it really get solved ? It looks so real – right from the protagonist MacMurphy down to the dominant Nurse Ratchet and her immature underling Pilbow – the attendents Washington and Warren – they too all seem to fit so well in place – so real – into a sad sad story- that I have to pinch myself into telling 'don't cry !!!its just a movie'.
MacMurphy (played stunningly well by Jack Nicholson) is sent to this 'home' for evaluation from the prison where they suspect he's feigning mental illness to escape work.What he finds in the place jolts him – a ward of 18 men with 9 chronic cases and rest being turned into the living dead by 'theraputic' procedures driven by Nurse Ratchet – most of these 9 non-chronic cases are 'voluntary' – it has been drilled into their minds they are here on their own accord and they are not yet ready to be a part of the society.
MacMurphy fights for their cause and tries to stall the therapy by arranging fun activities for his friends by jumping the law.He tries to and succeeds in getting it into their brains that they are 'no more crazy than the average asshole who runs the streets'.He teaches a (Native American) Indian called Chief that he really is as 'big as a mountain'.But the system is just too strong – it has the physical strength (strenght in numbers and of electricity) to hold down when the brainwashing starts wearing off ;the notorius 'shock' therapy is administered.And a the system extracts a heavy price from Mr R P MacMurphy.
My heart goes out for each of the occupannts of the ward , especially the youth called Billy Bibbit who was put here when he turned suicidal after the woman he loved rejected him – the role is so well played that everytime he stutters a response your heart skips a beat – he's not crazy – no sir – he's just too madly in love.Then there is Cheif- the Big Indian who pretends to be deaf and dumb and inspite of his enormous physical proportions seems to have lost hope, saddened by his Popaya's plight.Mr Harding – the intellegent looking middle-aged gentleman – dressed immaculately in a gown – eyes outlined by the plastics of expensive spectacles – mouth by a well kept moustache – who loves to talk about the 'form and content' of his 'life' which was his wife, that is until he started suspecting her of infidelity…
Martini the childish imp – Cheswick the forever compassionate – will always take your side when the whole world gangs up on you.
…Then there is that outsider – the naughty girl called Candy whom MacMurphy would approach for satiating his and his gang's sensual needs – so well played – that sultry blonde – with pea sized brain – willing to oblige anyone – one of the most memorable scenes is when MacMurphy introduces her to the gang and she asks them in amazement – 'you'll crazy?' – to which the crowd cheerfully shouts an emphatic 'YES'- to that moment when Billy sneaks a private moment with her and stutters coyly 'oh you have nice hair'.'Ah thankyou' she replies with all of her hallmark coquetry.
Another remarkabkle moment is when MacMurphy is caught stealing a fishing boat (ofcourse after jumping the hospital) with his comrades – the owner/caretaker of the boat asks who they were – Mac replies nonchalantly – 'we are from the …State Mental Institution ..' and he introduces his comrades with their last names – with the title Dr. prefixed to each name 'this is Dr. Martini,Dr Cheswick…'- the guys nod as if they were centre-stage.The boat-man is absolutely befuddled and dumbstuck.
Another memorable moment is when Mac sneaks in two girls and a truckload of booze into the hospital at night (after bribing the guard ofcourse) – Mac gets onto the public address system and says 'Medication time' – mocking the nurse's daily call – 'the spirits of the night are here'.
Unfortunately the movie ends tragically (in a way) with a haunting Native American background music especially with the lifeless form of MacMurphy in the foreground and the Big Indian Chief sprinting out of sight – his heart (and ours too) weeping for the man who taught him once again to feel 'big like a mountain'.
And the system still is miraculosly in place…