One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) – A classic of the seventies
April 20, 2013 in Classic 70s Movies
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a 1975 film directed by Miloš Forman and based on the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.
The film went on to win a total of five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Jack Nicholson, Best Actress for Louise Fletcher, Best Direction for Forman, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Laurence Hauben and Bo Goldman.
An extraordinary story by Kesey and direction by Forman, and an excellent portrayal of McMurphy by Nicholson, allow the story to come alive in visual form. The film focuses on one thing foremost: the characters. The colorful bunch of patients are not just madcaps talking to themselves. They each have their own story and distinct personality. Their personalities show through every line and every action they’re involved in.
This film is clearly Forman’s masterpiece for it really hasn’t dated a bit. It is mainly because the qualities of human nature that Forman captures–playfulness, bravery, inspiration, pride, stubbornness–are universal and timeless and that is why the film has stood the test of time and is still considered one of the greatest films ever made.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest does not try to make a statement about mental illness or how the unstable should be treated. It is a simplistic film about small people living in their own small worlds. It is a very simple portrait of the long days and hilarious scenarios that can come about when a mixed bag of suffering people are thrown together.
The film’s ending is unsurprisingly its strongest aspect which sets it apart from the other movies. McMurphy’s fate, presented in such an uncompromising manner, is like a punch to the gut, and the last true act of friendship shown to him by Chief brings a tear to the eye. For a film that is inspiring and upbeat for most of its running length, this change in tone leaves the viewer introspective and with a tear in his eye.
Jack Nicholson plays McMurphy as if he were born to it. He excels in bringing out the humor and pathos in McMurphy’s situation and showing what a sane man will do/act when he is trapped in a ward full of insane compatriots. He conveys the essence of McMurphy to perfection, demonstrating his excellent understanding and interpretation of the character.
Trivia : Many extras were authentic mental patients. Saul Zantez, the film’s producer appears as a man at the inmates’ bus outing.
The film is exceptional in every sense imaginable. It has an excellent story, excellent acting, perfect visuals and some terrific performances from the supporting cast as well. I feel that the story takes a little while to pick up pace but once it does, it competently sustains the viewer’s interest right up to the memorable finale. The finale leaves the viewer stunned and sitting there thinking about what he just saw.
Really one of those movies that you must have seen at least once in your life!