After Bedlam: The Mental Institution Film

Since Robert Wiene’s Cabinet of Dr. Caligari premiered in 1920, psychiatric hospitals have been a recurring theme in cinema. While made under the guise of other genres—from horror to melodrama, direct cinema to dystopian science fiction—the mental institution film has almost become a genre in itself, similar to the prison film or military film.

Filmmakers have used mental institutions as an ideal microcosm to study society at large; psychiatric hospitals are presented as isolated scenarios where inmates and staff engage in role-playing normalcy and pathology, authority and deviance, order and disorder.

This film program focuses mainly on the 1960s, a period characterized by important transformations in the care for the mentally ill. In the United States, the Community Mental Health Act was passed in 1963 and continued with the strong impact of anti-psychiatry in parallel with the pharmaceutical revolution. Straight jackets, electroconvulsive therapy, medication, and even lobotomy are the usual suspects in some of the films of this era, which offer a critical view toward psychiatry.

As the psychiatric institution changed during the second half of the twentieth century, its depiction in film consequently changed. Some of the films in the program present a more benevolent view of the psychiatric institution, but always keep a critical eye on the relationships between society and those who are diagnosed with mental illness.

– Javier Téllez, series curator

This series was organized in collaboration with the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) and artist Javier Téllez in conjunction with his exhibition on view at MAG, April 22–June 17. Javier Téllez will discuss his recent commission for MAG with scholar and theorist W. J. T. Mitchell on Sunday, April 22, at 2 pm at MAG. Mitchell will also deliver a public lecture “American Psychosis: Trump and the Nightmare of History” on Friday, April 20, at 4 pm in Hoyt Auditorium at the University of Rochester. Visit mag.rochester.edu for more details. 

Date:
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
Silent Tuesdays | After Bedlam. The gruesome images of Cesare, the carnival somnambulist, his sinister keeper Dr. Caligari, and the hallucinatory, distorted world which they inhabit have become cinema icons since this film appeared on screens almost one hundred years ago, chilling audiences worldwide and continuing to fascinate viewers today. 
Date:
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
After Bedlam. Six years before facing off against the insane computer HAL in 2001, Keir Dullea launched his career battling demons of a very different sort. David (Dullea), a brilliant, neurotic teenager with a morbid fear of being touched, is sent by his suffocating mother to a school for troubled youth. There, David meets Lisa (Janet Margolin), a childlike young woman who speaks in rhyme to keep her own demons at bay.
Date:
Thursday, April 12, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
After Bedlam. Johnny Barrett, a reporter obsessed with winning a Pulitzer Prize, goes undercover in a mental hospital in order to solve a murder, only to cross the line between sanity and madness.
Date:
Friday, April 13, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
​Rochester Premiere | After Bedlam. Every year in France, 92,000 people are placed under psychiatric care without their consent. By law, the hospital has twelve days to bring each patient before a judge. Based on medical records and a doctor’s recommendations, a crucial decision has to be made—will the patient stay or leave?
Date:
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
After Bedlam. During the 19th century, fashionable theatergoers would attend ostensibly therapeutic stage performances by mental asylum inmates. The film opens on July 19, 1809, with Monsieur Coubnier (Clifford Rose), the officious head of the Charenton asylum, introducing that night’s show—a drama about the assassination of French Revolutionary War firebrand Jean-Paul Marat, written by that institution’s most notorious resident, the Marquis de Sade (Patrick Magee). 
Date:
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
After Bedlam | Member Movie. Warren Beatty and Jean Seberg costar in this haunting drama about the obsessive love between a therapist and his patient. 
Date:
Friday, April 20, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
After Bedlam. In this Academy Award–winning screen adaptation of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel about life inside a mental institution, Jack Nicholson stars as the witty con man who finagles his way out of his prison work detail by convincing the guards that he is insane.
Date:
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
After Bedlam | Silent Tuesdays. A brilliant avant-garde exploration of the helplessness felt by an insane person’s loved ones, this film tells of a man who works as a janitor in the insane asylum where his wife is a patient. 
Date:
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
(Miloš Forman, US 1975, 133 min., 35mm)After Bedlam. In this Academy Award–winning screen adaptation of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel about life inside a mental institution, Jack Nicholson stars as the witty con man who finagles his way out of his prison work detail by convincing the guards that he is insane. His plan goes awry, however, when he meets Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), whose chilling self-righteousness drives her charges into submission. Also showing: Friday, April 20, 7:30 p.m.