titicut follies by frederick wiseman
"i need help, i just don’t know where i can get it… well, you’ll get it here, i guess”
our trip through my fifty favorite films has us on the mental hospital for the criminally insane and the direct cinema masterpiece, titicut follies…
frederick wireman is probably the master of direct cinema. direct cinema is basically fly-on-the-wall filmmaking, where the filmmakers try to capture reality as it takes place. they try to make as little an impact on the action as they possibly can, and simply sit there and record it. wiseman has made over 40 films, but his first, titicut follies, has to be his best.
titicut follies takes place within the walls of a massachusetts “hospital” for the criminally insane. it chronicles the patients, the caretakers, and the guards (all of the terms are used loosely). titicut follies is filmed with such an evenhand that it can come off cold and distant, which only amplifies the appalling behavior of which the patients or inmates are treated. they are physically assaulted, kept in their cells completely naked, and verbally tormented throughout the film. at no point do the guards seem to even notice (or care) that cameras are catching their actions, and no attempt is made to answer the question of how any of these actions are helping the patients. i mean this is a hospital right? the film almost never was able to be seen because massachusetts tried to stop is distribution. wiseman, a lawyer turned filmmaker (opposite of me), was able to get it released almost 30 years after filming it, only after patients died because of the treatment they received at the hospital.
titicut follies is a difficult film to watch. there are numerous scenes that are so shocking to the conscience that you almost loose it when you remember that this is actually happening. it’s a depressing look at how inhumanely people can treat other people. wireman never preaches, never tells you what to think, but just lets the camera and the action speak for themselves.