Sunday, November 22, 2015
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) review [Revisited]
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a fantastic film by itself with brilliant performances, script, and film-making. However, in comparison to its source material, it falls a tad flat and unreliable, We lose so many key elements of the theme in the onscreen transition, but gain clarification for the more underlying ones.
PLOT: Randall P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is transferred from a prison work farm to a mental institution after the authorities determine him potentially insane. The asylum, led by the all-powerful Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), takes McMurphy in for an observation period in which he decides to attempt to turn everything upside down and take over. From day one in the asylum, McMurphy tries to manipulate the patients and get under the Nurse's skin. McMurphy tries to prove his insanity, by doing things such as imagining the World Series and teaching the deaf Chief Bromden (Will Sampson) to play basketball. From here on, it's a straight battle between McMurphy and the Nurse as well as between thought control and mental liberation. The plot, just as in the novel, is excellently crafted and well-thought out. The film adds its own twists on a few things, neglecting ones from the book, but nevertheless clarifying a few things the audience may have missed in reading the novel.
ACTING: All of the performances in this film are brilliant and well-worthy of their recognition. The great Jack Nicholson acts in what may be his best role in comparison to The Shining in the eighties. Through his portrayal, the audience is led to believe that no one could have done it any better. Nobody could have been as loud, proud and insane in such a way as he was in this film. Louise Fletcher also did a fantastic job, responding to Nicholson's character accurately as possible. She probably fits the novel's portrayal of her more accurately than Nicholson as McMurphy. Other key performances in this film would include early roles from acting legends Christopher Lloyd as tough-guy Taber and Danny DeVito as the disconnected Martini. Other great performances include Scatman Crothers as nurse's aide Turkle, Syndey Lassick as anxious Charlie Cheswick, William Redfield as the wise Mr. Harding, Will Sampson as Chief Bromden, and (introducing) Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbit. This film for the most part felt like a huge character study with all of these personalities poured into a huge melting pot for the audience to kind of take in and study. Learning how each character reacts is probably the best part of the film.
SCORE: The score was also professionally done by master composer, Jack Nitzsche. The main theme occurring at the beginning and the end of the film is probably one of the most, unique, fitting, and memorable pieces of composition ever made for film. It's truly a beautiful piece, as is the rest of the score by Nitzsche.
OTHER CONTENT: This film can definitely stand on its own without the novel, for the two sources almost feel like very different pieces of artwork when compared. So much is lost in the transition from page-to-film, such as the Chief's all-seeing narration, some of the novel's risky signals of theme, and ample explanation for certain key events in the plot. However, the film gains clarification for irony's role in the source and how each of these crazy characters function under the Nurse's rule. One can clearly see the transition within the patients and how the ones actually committed and not voluntary seem to be the most sane. Both the film and the novel are equally as powerful, but the novel just has so much to offer in substance. The film just makes up for it in form.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is as strong a film as it was a novel. Each has its own set of similarities and differences, but each works with what it sets up excellently. Through every character, word, and shot of this film, we are introduced to a story that means so much more than is revealed. In the transition, one could even say pertaining to both compositions, one flew east and one flew west. But indeed, one definitely flew over the cuckoo's nest.