“Girl Interrupted”


This film, based on Susanna Kaysen’s best selling true story of the same title, “Girl Interrupted” was a highly emotional drama for me. A reflection from the 1960’s when women could easily be institutionalized, and labeled insane if they did not conform to society’s standards or ideals. Also a reflection of where we have come from in our thinking, and how much of this still effects our lives today.

The subject matter involved self-definition and being misunderstood as a woman. I found this very validating for women who have gone unsupported through the maturation process, but found it to be stereotypical of them. It would be of little interest to female and male populations who cannot relate to this inner chaos. This greatly limits the popularity of the film, but perhaps, indirectly has the potential of changing a lot of lives.

I could not effectively evaluate or participate with the movie during the first showing because there was so much cinematic realism for me. But watching it a second time, I could pay closer attention and found the film content was brimming with humanity and values that strongly paralleled mine. It answered questions about personal boundaries that we as women have the right and responsibility to establish. I felt seduced by it because it involved a conflict over values that reached me at a very deep level. The subject matter was about personal boundaries between confinement and freedom, friendship and betrayal, madness and sanity, and just who defines them. These are some very universal issues for women of all ages that the film has brought to light and ignited strong feelings I didn’t seem to have control over.

The film began with Suzanne’s inner thoughts being reflected in a poetic philosophical way as she questioned her direction in life. It was a unique narrative style that was almost sensuous and made me want to hear it again and again throughout the film. I never heard her inner thoughts again until the end of the film and for this reason I felt I could not know her character. I was amazed at the power her words had over me. They immediately focused me into a deep mode of inner reflection. She began “Have you ever confused a dream with life?” The film demonstrated all the way through and is summarized that in many ways, our sanity is determined by our commitment to playing by the rules. It was very easy for me to personalize this. This is demonstrated in the way Susanna continually gives in to the idea that she is simply being self-centered. If was frustrating seeing her play the role of the “good girl” who will stay sane if she only follows the yellow brick road. Connecting with me so personally, this angered me that she believed and gave in so easily. I kept thinking if only she could have had a friend in the film that believed in her. I wanted to see and hear the progression of how she came to terms with her inner conflicts and found the film to be lacking in character development.

The camera used close up shots of Suzanna often in the beginning, which worked, great for her character because it kept out all other distractions that could take you away from her. But it seemed the director’s goal was to always leave me hungry for more development. I could relate to the issues that Susanna was dealing with but she still felt like a far away stranger which left me feeling frustrated and out of touch with her.

As a woman, having these issues addressed was validating and this made it safe to get in touch with feelings I could not do easily otherwise. For women who have been supported through the maturation stages, been accepted and loved into a family unconditionally, or has moved on emotionally, this could be a bit of a bore. For men, this may seem more like a woman’s flick; experiencing boredom with the whole idea of women trying to figure out who hold’s the reigns, with an overbearing focus on reaction rather than action because nobody’s issues ever get solved.

Given that Suzanna is distraught,