- Mental Health
Bipolar Characters in Movies
We like to recognize ourselves in others. It’s comforting, it makes us feel not so unutterably alone. How do you feel when you learn that someone else is also bipolar? I feel some camaraderie and yet the complete loss of trust. A combination of two bipolars is highly volatile. What if we lose our minds at the same time? We always need the sane surroundings to check the reflection and be assured that everything is going to be fine. We need some extra safety.
How often do we see bipolars onscreen? Well, maybe on occasion. I can remember two films. “Biutiful” that I watched precisely because the main character, who was played by Javier Bardem, was struggling with his bipolar ex-wife. He did not lose love, he lost patience and we all know how it feels. I like foreign films and I like Javier Bardem, so this one certainly helped to put things in perspective. Was she recognizable? Yes, yes, and yes. Painfully so, unmistakably so. The best thing that Javier Bardem said to her in the end (not verbatim) was “I am sorry; I did not know how to help you and how to help us.” Yes, it comes down to understanding of what bipolar illness is and how to treat it. That there is a difference between a person and the ailment. This family had two children and seeing them affected by this tragedy was devastating. But I don’t regret watching the film and I highly recommend it. Yes, it is tragic, yes, it is dramatic. But that’s what bipolar is - tragic, dramatic, embarrassing, unpredictable. The Disorderly Disorder. No, it is not a Beautiful Chaos, quite the contrary. Pain is painful, not beautiful.
Another film that portrayed a manic-depressive man was “Michael Clayton”. Michael Clayton was played by George Clooney, but his friend, the bipolar character was played by Tom Wilkinson and he delivered a masterful performance. He was stunning and more than believable. If you never saw the film, watch it. I am sure you won’t regret it. When you identify with a character so much, it acquires a new undertone, maybe even more so – a new significance. I certainly did not forget either of those films.
I am writing this now, but this article is not about “Biutiful” or “Michael Clayton”. It is about how interrupted I always feel. The natural flow of life has been broken. When I abandon something, I forget. When I forget I repeat the same experience. I feel like I am losing the most precious thing that I have – my mind and my health. When I get depressed I let go of my connections and I lose them. When I am manic, I don’t even want to say what happens. I hate manic stage for losing control. Interruption is a pattern. Forgetting is the norm. If not for writing I would have forgotten too much.
I started writing in 2008 and I was doing it sporadically from time to time on my own web-site. In 2010, I joined HubPages and I left my site for good. I did not leave, I abandoned. I did not come back for anything let alone reading. But everything that is written can be viewed as a diary or a photo album of the past. Keep it, keep everything.
Le notti bianche (1957)
And now I came back to some of my November 2009 entries. I have completely forgotten that I have ever written about “Two Lovers”.
I have watched the film, I wrote about it in 2009, I came back and I want to see it again. I strongly recommend it. I have looked it up now and have learned something new and something interesting for myself. “Two Lovers” was inspired by a short story “White Nights” by Fyodor Dostoevsky and there is another film by Luchino Visconti: Le Notti Bianche. I hope you follow my advice and watch the film. Or maybe at least start writing your Bipolar Diaries.
What I wrote about “Two Lovers” is not so much a review, but a memory. It was certainly not my best effort, but there is a bipolar quality to my writing as well, for many of us so painfully recognizable and identifiable.
Traveling back in time. November 2009.
Everything became a problem now, even picking a film. Maybe I just do not want to waste my time watching some garbage. The major difficulty is, of course, in defining what garbage is.
Maybe it simply has been awhile since I was aware of what is out there. There is no list in my mind of what I should watch. So I feel like a blind person in a forest at night. I go to the local video store (that has been closed since then) and feel absolutely lost there. Then I go to the “Hidden Gems” category and try picking something suitable. Then I get stuck with what is exactly suitable.
Suitable for what?
For my mood?
For improving it or for reflecting it?
When I picked “Two Lovers”, it is hard to say what exactly I expected. I think instinctively I knew it would not be a simple comedy you forget right after the film is over. I like Joaquin Phoenix who was so highly praised for his performance, that it was hard to resist. The fact that Gwyneth Paltrow was there was almost a turn-off, but you can’t have everything. So there, the choice was made.
After having watched “Two Lovers”, I haven’t thought much about the film. Not because I would say it was not good. It was not thrilling; I would even say it was boring to a point. But I kept thinking about it, which is always a sign, that the film is really not bad. Anything that makes you think is worthwhile. This film really gets under your skin without you realizing it. There is subtle power to it, the power of truthful emotion.
I read the reviews later. The critics sympathized with Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix) and commented how likeable he was and how the critics knew what he should have done and how he should have behaved in order to make the right choice in love. Pick somebody familiar and safe (and boring) and forego flashy, unstable and instantly attractive. Save yourself trouble, trade excitement of love and a possibility of heartbreak for security, stability, maybe friendship.
“However, while it is clear to the audience which of the two women Leonard should focus his attentions on, he instead pursues the other one.”(Cinema Autopsy, Thomas Caldwell)
Of course, there is truth and merit to that, but I wonder how many people could actually resist falling in love and how many of us sit and calculate the odds and the possible outcomes. Maybe those who took the decision-making courses like me, you know, those ones - “What-if analysis”, “Strategic Thinking”. But I still prefer to be in love rather than not and maybe I’ll chose to have two lovers as well, if not all forty two of them.
We are never in doubt of the truth of the characters
Maybe that is why Leonard is so likeable and charming in his vulnerability. Not because he is bipolar, because he is very human.
That is the word – BIPOLAR.
The film does not put such emphasis on his diagnosis and Leonard is only shown as a depressed person, rather than manic. The diagnosis is mentioned in one of the reviews and whether it is an assumption or not, there is no way of knowing.
“Very little is explicit. The audience is left to infer much from spotty information, and yet a full and specific picture emerges. We are never in doubt of the truth of the characters and the absolute solidity of the world being depicted.
Watching "Two Lovers" is like life in the sense that you only get the tip of the iceberg, but you see enough to figure out all you need to know, and you're never in doubt that the iceberg is really there.”
(Mick LaSalle, Movie review: Phoenix masterful in 'Two Lovers', San Francisco Chronicle, February 27, 2009)
But one point was so touching, so it took me a few weeks to really come back to it and remember. Subtlety and gentleness of the film is chiefly responsible for the fact that I cannot stop thinking about it. The first scene – Leonard is either going home or on his way to deliver dry-cleaned clothes – and he jumps into the ocean. It’s freezing cold outside and he is not walking, he is shambling. The scene is as bleak as depression itself and I still see it before my eyes. The water? The Blue? A Suicide out of the Blue? There are no suicides out of the blue. They all come after the long and excruciating emotional pain.
Here critics should have said that it was not advisable to jump fully-clothed in freezing water. Oh, no, I never jumped. I only thought about jumping from the balcony from the 20th floor. Oh, yes, I can sympathize. Or empathize? That scene is now somewhat haunting and yet a relief really. To see it from a different perspective. You do have to jump in order to see the light of day. To realize that there actually will be another day and …who knows what.
It is still a love story. And even though a critic might think such behaviour is crazy, “blind, stupid and inconsiderate”, it takes a person who had similar experience to say… I don’t know what you would say; I guess you have to watch the film.
Just do not ask the film critics what is right and what is wrong. Whom to pick and fall in love with. Make your own decisions. That is the only way to learn, bipolar or not.
Reviews for "Two Lovers"
- Film review – Two Lovers (2008) « Cinema Autopsy
On the surface Two Lovers may not present itself as anything more than a superior drama about the difficulties of negotiating matters of the heart but this is an extraordinarily well crafted film that is utterly compelling until the very end.
- Movie review: Phoenix masterful in 'Two Lovers' - SFGate
Watching "Two Lovers" is like life in the sense that you only get the tip of the iceberg, but you see enough to figure out all you need to know, and you're never in doubt that the iceberg is really there.
© 2012 kallini2010