Film: Double Bill

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The Independent Culture
Taking Off

(Dir. Milos Forman, 1971)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

(Dir. Milos Forman, 1975)

THESE TWO films both speak about the tragic comic anti-heroes of modern society. In both it's Seventies society. The theme is basically how society can actually castrate their own population who aren't strong enough. Consumer society goes forward and wins and those who can't keep up are swept along in an institution.

was made on the streets of New York. It's Milos Forman's first observation of Western society after moving from Prague. It's a low-budget film about parents trying to track down children who have run away from home.

In the Seventies there was this new generation of homeless people. The young generation were rejecting family values and trying to join hippie culture. The film concentrates on the parents' struggle to understand their children. In one scene they apply to go to class to learn how to smoke pot so they can understand. These are middle-class urban values. The film is very free-wheeling, free-spirited; even how it's made out on location on the streets.

The other film explores the tragic comic anti-hero in an asylum. Jack Nicholson has come from the kind of street in . He is breaking the rules by being a free spirit who is in this rigid society with people who aren't really mad but insecure, fragile.

In there is a point when the parents think they have achieved understanding and then something quite extraordinary happens: the parents get drunk and the daughter bursts into the house to find them dancing naked on the table. The parents have become the children. By taking their clothes off the parents are suddenly freed of their rigid understanding of life. There is an almost similar scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest when the nurse comes in and discovers the patients have had a great party and forgotten they are patients.

That may sound too good to be true, but Forman also challenges the idea that a hero is a hero who always wins. For instance, Jack Nicholson tries to help the other patients and, just when you think he has reached his goal, is punished with electric shocks and killed by the Indian - who becomes the unlikely hero and escapes.

There are certain rules in film that cannot be disobeyed if you want to have a commercially successful film. When people come from a different culture they offer refreshment, a questioning of the rules. Like an earthquake, suddenly that culture realises there is a new point of view.

These films suggest that ordinary people who are going through an unpredictable situation are heroes in themselves. In one film it's shown from the outside, in another from the inside. In each they experience what it's like to not be imprisoned by an institution or family but be you - for yourself.

In a way it's like the end of Beautiful People: whether English or Bosnian they are liberated, and for a moment actually experience freedom. The beautiful people in the Seventies were stripped of money and family - like Bosnian refugees who were stripped of dignity. The English deal with problems but they lack spontaneity. The beauty of life is living for the moment.

`Beautiful People' will be released on 17 September