We are all heading to a state where loneliness is capturing our minds and growing into a mental illness, especially during these times of social distancing. Today’s cinema is dominated with portrayal of mentally ill people as unpredictable, violent and the most dangerous of all. For most people, films are the only resource to know about mental illness and are accepted as absolute truth without a second thought. Though most of them exaggerate the psychological behavior of a person, some of them provide an exceptional explanation of a character descending into insanity. Just like two sides of a coin, the audience are either sympathetic or scared of the insane characters presented in cinema.
The understanding of how the world works is normally acquired though social interaction, which shapes our perception of the world and the values attached to it. What happens when we encounter the wrong people throughout our life, and hence subjected to loneliness? The result be a delirium of feelings and a disorder of the moral sense.
“The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”
Joker (2019) is one of the most popular and controversial fictional film in the comic-book history. The latest take on the diabolical character follows Arthur Fleck, a small-time clown who resorts to violence and anarchy after being outcast by the society. The film shows about how a corrupt and an emotionally abusive society would bring a person way beyond his boiling point, and how an individuals’ actions are colored with shades of politics. The audience begin to feel empathy and start caring for the character, despite his horrific acts, because the film shows him as a victim of the society and makes him the character we root till the end.
“I used to think that my life is a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a tragedy”
“Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. There’s no escape. I’m a lonely man.”
Another example of such a character is Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver (1976), an insomniac loner who works as a cabbie and is driven to reform the society as his mental state declines. The film is based on the base idea “Real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets”, until Travis sets out to become the rain. Travis, though an instantly unlikable character, is viewed with a hope by the audience due to the loneliness factor which turns out to be partly relatable.
“Here is a man who would not take it anymore. Here is a man who stood up.”
There is a piece of Arthur Fleck or Travis Bickle inside all of us, which is ticking like a time-bomb and waiting to implode within us. It is important to capitalize on the present moment and create a space to discuss our emotional problems. I once read in a popular book that, “The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for”, which turns out to be the best medicine to our mental health.
- Chandu Gatti