Mental illness is one of the great taboos in society. Nobody wants to admit to it - not even depression - let alone bipolar or schizophrenia. Decent mainstream portrayals of mental illness are extremely rare and tend to glamourise the condition of the sufferer. Therefore we have A Beautiful Mind - connects schizophrenia to genius. Girl Interrupted - mental illness to creativity (the main character wants to be a writer). However, there have been some excellent portrayals of mental illness which do not shy away in their shocking and factual nature. It is a subject we will always be interested in. 1 in 4 of us in our lifetimes will suffer from a mental illness and we all have to suffer unpleasant mental states in our life - such as sadness, grief, anxiety. It is important that we talk about such issues. So I am doing my own little bit of awareness raising in 10 Films About Mental Illness:
10. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
As a pure piece of drama, A Streetcar Named Desire, is enjoyable to watch. It left me a blubbering mess which is probably due to Vivienne Leigh's powerful performance as Blanche Dubois. Blanche is a fading beauty, an alcoholic Southern belle who is a man eater and lives in a world of fantasies and illusions. She is keeping up a facade of demureness but inside she is cracking. She runs into trouble with Stanley (Marlon Brando) - her sister Stella's macho, brooding husband who hates Blanche's pretence and superior air towards him. Stella, in turn, is frightened by Stanley's domination of her but she is powerfully sexually attracted to him. The two have a tit for tat rivalry and Stanley finds out about Stella's sordid past (including seducing a 17 year old boy). Their feud culminates in the rape of Stella by Stanley - an event that pushes her into a breakdown. She is sent away, totally nuts to a psychiatric hospital. Then it's a case of Stella! Stella! Can't you hear me yella? You're putting me through hella! Blanche was such a flaky character, she was bound to go dolally sooner or later, Stanley was just an excuse. But it is a terribly sad tale. Blanche - used to twirling men round her finger, gets a big heap of male testosterone and is crushed. If I talk about it anymore I might start crying again, so I will stop.