Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Director: Milos Forman
Music: Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography: Haskell Wexler
Dean R. Brooks
Delos V. Smith Jr.
Oscar’s two-times BEST DIRECTOR winners is an elite coterie (newly recruited is Ang Lee earlier this year), Czech-born Milo Forman is another foreigner has accomplished the one-two punch with this film and AMADEUS (1984). What’s more impressive, it achieved another grand slam in all 5 major Oscar categories.
Basically the film is confined inside a mental institution, among a breed of patients, a newcomer McMurphy’s arrival stirs Nurse Ratched’s tyranny, whose strategy of manipulating those deranged is to coerce them into retread their horrible past and force them suffer under the name of group therapy, such a detestable character, Louise Fletcher nailed it, a borderline leading role, Fletcher’s Oscar victory may raise some controversy, but her performance is impeccable in accentuating a devilish incarnation of obstinacy and ruthlessness. Nicholson won his first Oscar in his heyday, as McMurphy, a petty criminal has a sane mind, threatens the authorities as a black sheep in the group, whose devil-may-care boldness and utter naivety (assuming that the institution is a much better place than a prisoners’ reforming farm) conflicts in the process of his freedom-seeking and his direct influence on other real mentally-impaired ward mates, ultimately, his tragedy is a boomerang to his gullibility and self-considered kindness, which squanders his best shot of escape and obliquely preconditions Billy’s final breakdown. The ambivalence of McMurphy’s heroic recklessness is the most intriguing topic of the film, he is not an amiable fellow, a ruffian on the street with a rebellious attitude, it is not in his intention to ameliorate his fellow mates’ condition, his presence does not have an initiative motivation, what he does is a knee-jerking response of a living soul who hankers for an unfettered environment which the society refuses to proffer.
There are many political allusions can be extracted from the film, to which I shall not refer since I am no American and am unfamiliar with the history, but the film garners a great amount of impressive supporting performances, Dourif’s big screen debut is stutteringly poignant, whose demise is a facile move in heightening the tension, but performance-wise, it is more awe-inspiring than the two leads aforementioned. Sampson, as the Chief, symbolizes the hope of the irrepressible, his backstory is curtailed and his pretense has never been given a chance to be expounded. Two old-hand actors are surprisingly seen in this film when in their youth, a tough Lloyd and a meek DeVito, and many deceased names also, Crothers, Redfield and Lassick, the latter is another scene-stealer, over-the-top but strikingly hilarious.
Forman’s preference over classical music also reflects in the film, the opening score from Jack Nitzsche hums along with a melancholic tone and the symphony-driven pieces are inserted into the right place at the right time. There are many memorable shots, e.g. Nicholson being electric-shocked and Fletcher being strangled are too authentic to stare, on the whole ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST is a sound accusation towards high-handed suppression and dominance, its sociological impact even rises above over the film’s own integrity of a gem made with excellent cast and wry irony.