#620 One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an excellent film that won many awards in 1975. The film features incredible performances by Will Sampson, Louise Fletcher, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Lloyd, Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito, and many others all working as a tight ensemble to deliver a powerful and beautifully paced piece. Forman’s direction has rarely failed throughout his illustrious career, and this movie is no different; any scene between Fletcher and Nicholson is mesmerizing as one can literally see static electricity building between their silent eyes.

As a reader, I am really looking forward to the films on this list that are based on books I have read. As a matter of fact, I am looking forward to reading some of the books that I haven’t read before seeing the film and experiencing both pieces independently. There are a lot on the list that I have already read, so that helps.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was a film that I saw in high school and ended up reading the book a lot later. It is somewhat of an urban fantasy and is told in the point of view of the Chief as he tries to make sense of the senselessness of his surroundings. It was a great book, and it’s most memorable elements were its use of fantasy elements and Beat Generation narrative in the face of telling a compelling story about domination, social complacency, and the importance of self in a world that doesn’t care.

This film is excellent but leaves out a great deal of what makes the book great. As a work of art on its own, it manages to evoke some incredible performances from some new actors (Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, and Brad Dourif). The fact that this studio film is able to captivate the audience using only one set most of the film as if we were watching a play (it was also a play, of course) is a testament to the power of the performances and the script over anything else. It is rare today that original performances by original actors are a chance that studios take, and it worked so perfectly in this film. Furthermore, Forman’s understanding of a good performance when he sees it, and his ability to zoom into the performer’s face uncomfortably close brings a shocking beauty to their performance. Dourif’s close reactions to Fletcher’s questioning about halfway through the film is one of the greatest compositions between actor and camerawork that ended in something absolutely beautiful.

A great film whose script and theatrical execution appear to be its strongest points. As an adaptation of a book, it misses some of the books more important elements and only focuses on plot and theme. Largely misses the tone and narrative of the piece, but it is beautiful on its own as a separate work of art.


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