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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST

Before anything: this is not my writing. This is the Kid's obviously. I don't have that wide a vocabulary. :)


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On the Reality of Human Emotion: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Movie)


Yesterday I watched One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s one of those must-see movies in Rotten Tomatoes. Most film critics even regard it as a cinematic masterpiece.


What I like about the film is its appeal to both ‘form’ and ‘substance’. To me, form pertains to: first, what the film says (the story) and second, how the film says what it says (movie elements like cinematography, screenplay, musical score, etc.) On the other hand, substance pertains to the theme. It answers the question ‘so what’.


In my opinion, the substance of a film is as important as its form. Because film is a form of art, its primary essence is to educate the intellect on the truth about human nature through a material that can be appreciated on its own. Thus, a beautiful film, just like a beautiful painting, can provide its audience with ‘disinterested pleasure’.


The film is about a prisoner who pretended to be mad in order to escape prison work. His unexpected deportation to a mental asylum allowed him to do foolish things that he couldn’t have done in prison. The conflict arises by the time the head nurse controls his behavior in the asylum.


1. Substance of the Film: Human Nature as the Triumph of Emotion


At this point, let us explore the substance of the film or its theme. In this light, I want to claim that the ability of the film to capture essential truths about human nature elevates its artistic value, although its thematic meaning is morally erroneous.


The movie elucidates on the REALITY OF HUMAN NATURE by defining it as the TRIUMPH OF EMOTIONS OVER LOGIC. We can clearly see this in the way the characters and events are packaged in the film.


To understand this position, we have to examine the film characters metaphorically. We can group the major characters into two: the head nurse of the mental hospital and McMurphy (Jack Nicholson’s character).


Firstly, the head nurse symbolizes form and order—human logic. Because it is logic, it has to guide human behavior toward the morally upright. However, the film depicts the head nurse as painfully dull and hypocritical. Because she enforces rigid rules and regulations in the hospital, she directly suppresses the patients’ freedom in doing whatever they want.


On the other hand, McMurphy epitomizes vivacity and boldness—human emotion. He takes things less seriously and does stupid things with great pleasure. Thus, hindering his actions is tantamount to bastardizing his essence as a person that is marked by imperfection.


Therefore, the theme of the film is more clearly shown during the conflicts that arise between the head nurse and McMurphy. The suppression of McMurphy’s foolish actions highlights the ‘un-humanness’ of logic—as embodied through the head nurse.


The thematic reasoning of the film goes like this: WE ARE HUMANS BECAUSE WE ARE IMPERFECT. WE ARE IMPERFECT BECAUSE WE ERR. THIS MARKS OUR HUMAN NATURE.


ALTHOUGH FOLLOWING THE GOOD IS LOGICAL AND MORAL, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ATTAIN PERFECTION GIVEN OUR NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCE. THEREFORE, IT IS MORE REALISTIC TO STAY IMPERFECT SINCE THIS CAPTURES OUR HUMANITY.


2. The Truth: Human Transcendence as Human Nature


Thus, it is important to ask: what makes human truly human? Is it our imperfections that make us human or our actions to perfect ourselves?


As we see in science fiction novels and films, what differentiates a robot from a person is human emotion—more specifically, his capacity to love. But as the film opines, the emotion is that which is instinctual since it relates to our natural tendency to seek pleasure and avoid pain—whatever pleasure that is.


The movie’s conception of human freedom is hinged on doing whatever we want without any restriction. This makes the evaluation of human behavior relative to the agent’s own feelings and emotions. In effect, logic may obstruct the pursuit of wants, especially when what is wanted is morally corrupted although emotionally pleasurable. Since we embrace imperfection and succumb to temptations, we herald emotions—thinking that by doing so it elevates our humanity. But is it really the case?


The movie unfortunately fails to consider human transcendence as part of human nature. FREEDOM IS NOT ABOUT DOING WHATEVER WE WANT, BUT DOING WHAT IS GOOD FOR US. PRECISELY BECAUSE WE ARE FREE, WE ARE ABLE TO CONTROL OUR EMOTIONS THROUGH THE USE OF LOGIC, THUS, WE ARE ABLE TO TRANSCEND OUR IMPERFECTION. (The use of logic helps us to discern what is good and what is evil in our actions).


In other words, HUMAN TRANSCENDENCE HELPS US REALIZE OUR NATURAL INCLINATION TOWARD PERFECTION, HOWEVER IMPERFECT WE ARE. Through the intellect, we are able to seek for the truth; and through the will, we are able to do what is good. The pursuit of truth and goodness justifies our natural inclination toward perfection.


In this sense, although human emotion is an essential facet of our humanity, it must be grounded on logic. Inter-personal love, for example, works best when it follows its objective aspect, that is, the bettering of the character of the persons involved. Thus, it can be claimed that feeling the emotion is more fulfilling when we know that it based on righteous human action.


Therefore, it is LOGIC GUIDING EMOTION THAT MARKS TRUE HUMAN NATURE. As the philosopher Boethius said, a human person is an ‘individual substance with rational nature’ (persona est rationalis naturae individua substantia). Let's keep that in mind.

7 comments:

Will said...

Still haven't watched this. Sana makakuha ako ng copy. :)

Eternal Wanderer... said...

teka, college essay ba 'to for a philo or film class?

*major aneurysm here* lolz

Mr. G said...

I have always wanted to see this, together with "Silence of the Lambs". I did watch "silence" and its sequels on "Dr. Hannibal". I hope to get a copy of this one...where did you get a copy?

orally said...

i'm a fan of this film, and the nurse too lol

rising mark said...

for a while there i thought it was the kid's writing. =0

kaloy said...

hindi ako matunawan, allow me to indulge... if human nature is imperfection (assuming this is an "IS" definition) why is there a need to transcend it? and more, the thought of freedom as a means of control is, i think, unfaithful to it BEING freedom thus, bad faith. that's just me though... :)

Anonymous said...

1. Human transcendence, and not human imperfection, marks human nature. Imperfection becomes a 'circumstance' that should be overcome to FOLLOW TRUE HUMAN ESSENCE (essence as goal of humanity) which is perfection.

2. 'Control' is contextualized as intellect guiding human behavior toward the morally good. It is only when the self KNOWS what is TRUE and GOOD for itself that the self truly becomes FREE.

I think medyo lousy ang paggamit ko ng ‘control’, but what I really mean is that you use your head para MAITAMA ang GUSTO mo. Freedom is not just GUSTO, but TAMANG GUSTO. At dahil alam mong tama ang gusto mo, mas nagkakaroon ka ng peace of mind at mas nagiging masaya ka. :)

- KID -