As restless souls start to amass outside Christie Mansion at the corner of Wellesley and Queens Park Circle for the second of three screenings, the email directive each patron received required all patients (?) to wear white tops which only added to the mystery. Cinefiles milling about began to notice the subtleties of the film emerging all around them. A mentally challenged patient channelling a stellar version of Arnie Grape as he embraces the freedom of his surroundings; nurses in 1970’s inspired uniforms providing quick assessments to patrons (now patients) before dispensing them medication; a forlorn patient in full bedtime mode aimlessly walks amongst the throngs of new patients completely lost in thought. These are the early glimmers for the latest 360 Screenings series.
Upon entering Christie Mansion, yes that Christie, of Mr. Christie cookie fame, you stumble into the office of Dr. Spivey as he methodically gives advice to a psych patient regarding their current medical condition. Eavesdropping from one room to the next, you start to form a picture as the connections and clues take hold. The helpful nurse dispensing the virtues of electro-shock therapy to all who enter as your eyes focus on the barbarism of bed restraints. The vintage stock footage of patients undergoing shock treatment harkens back to a bygone era that rounds out your session. As you slip into the next experience, the holiday atmosphere is rife with two party girls playing fast and loose with patients and the libations as rousing sing-a-longs and the escalating intoxication add levity to this ward. Further medical interventions are found as Head Nurse Ratched conducts live interactive therapy sessions while attendees and patients expose their inner-most thoughts in this breakout room. It was not uncommon to find hospital orderlies, a broom pushing Native American or a dance inspired patient soubresauting in full Baryshnikov going about their business within the confines of this mental institution as it spirals into decline.
Maybe its my advanced age or maybe its just my love of the 70’s cinema experience including Milos Foreman films that drew me to conclude I had stepped into the Oscar winning film, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. That being said, the 360 immersive experience combined with the art directing abilities of Andy Miller to replicate the stark banality of this off putting mental institution which hits all the right notes. The line between patients and patients became blurred as the seamless interaction with doctors, nurses and the mentally committed pulls you in.
Verdict: 4 / 5: With the second season in full swing Artistic Producer / Co-Founder, Ned Loach and Artistic Director / Co-Founder, Robert Gontier went for a sobering cinematic classic to express their 360 sensibilities. By expanding to three screenings over the course of the weekend, this latest experience still generated the excitement and wonder that drew me in the first time. As a nice tie in to Christie Mansion, each patient was given a free bag of either Chips Ahoy or Oreos on their way out. As much as we say we don’t need it, everybody needs a little therapeutic intervention every now and then, and 360 Screenings puts you right in the middle of the session, pills and all.