I almost did not use this shot as part of this series. It is too pretty, too whimsical. It is almost, almost cliche. Does that fit with my dark portrayal of institutionalized mental health?
But then the image reminded me of a 1966 french film le roi de couer or, in english, the king of hearts.
The film is set in a small town in France near the end of World War I. As a German army retreats they booby-trap the whole town to explode. The locals flee.
Directed by Philippe de Broca, the film stars Alan Bates as Charles Plumpick, a kilt-wearing Scottish soldier who is sent by his commanding officer to disarm the bomb.
When Plumpick enters the town, he unknowingly leaves the door to the insane asylum open while being chased by the Germans. When the Germans have left the town, all of the inmates leave the asylum and playfully take over the town. The lunatics crown Plumpick King of Hearts with surreal pageantry as he frantically tries to find the bomb before it goes off.
The film ends with the question of who is more insane, those in the asylum or the soldiers on the battlefield.
This movie was a huge part of my childhood, as was mental health in general. My father was a psychologist, my mother a psychiatrist. Going to work with my father (who was the director of a small psychiatric facility connected to Pennsylvania Hospital) meant giong and playing with the "retarded" children. These were kids ranging from 5 years old to 18 years old some of whom were profoundly impaired. Yet, to me, they were ... i don't want to romanticize it, they weren't friends, but I did interact with them and I did not find them to be scary or crazy, just sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and sometimes a little strange.
King of Hearts was my mother's favorite movie, and we watched it at least twice a year; or whenever it would come to the local art theatre.
The film does romantacize the issue. The insane are funny and smart and, holy heck, Genevieve Bujold (the lead woman crazy) ... well who didn't want to go insane with her!!
Anyway, I have no idea where I was going with this very long description ... other than to say that society has always been ambiguous about the insane. They are oracles. They have hidden wisdom. They are magically innocent. They are tragic.
I suspect that almost all of them would prefer to be a little more normal.
So, I leave this series for now (I have no more usuable shots, but will be back) with this image that reminds me of the King of Hearts.