27 November 2009

Ward No. 6

Directed by: Karen Shakhnazarov
Written by: Karen Shakhnazarov & Aleksandr Borodyansky
Full credits at IMDb

Social misfits often harbor an irrational (except in tyrannical states) persecution phobia, a fear that their otherness will become punishable by law—or at least by some extra-judiciary cabal. As the circles defining artists and eccentrics tend to overlap, this anxiety frequently manifests itself in art, from the senseless bureaucratic injustice in Kafka to Hitchcock's wrong-man manhunts. But writers and filmmakers often also reveal a deeper, more specified fear of their own mental processes; a free capacity for contemplation distinguishes the thoughtful types from the masses, resulting in a worry among the former that the exposure of their private heresies will result in oppression by the institutions representing the latter: Winston Smith's struggle to avoid prosecution for thoughtcrime, Randle McMurphy herded into the folds of conformity through coerced lobotomy. Ward No. 6, Russia's bleak and vigorous submission to the Academy Awards, taps into this brand of psychological apprehensiveness, of mental-as-political repression. And, as a result, it's a deeply unsettling film.

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