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A unique exploration of how mental illness is portrayed in classic and contemporary films.
The study of classic and contemporary films can provide a powerful avenue to understand the experience of mental illness. In Madness at the Movies, James Charney, MD, a practicing psychiatrist and long-time cinephile, examines films that delve deeply into characters’ inner worlds, and he analyzes moments that help define their particular mental illness.
Based on the highly popular course that Charney taught at Yale University and the American University of Rome, Madness at the Movies introduces readers to films that may be new to them and encourages them to view these films in an entirely new way. Through films such as Psycho, Taxi Driver, Through a Glass Darkly, Night of the Hunter, A Woman Under the Influence, Ordinary People, and As Good As It Gets, Charney covers an array of disorders, including psychosis, paranoia, psychopathy, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety. He examines how these films work to convey the essence of each illness. He also looks at how each film reflects the understanding of mental illness at the time it was released as well as the culture that shaped that understanding.
Charney explains how to observe the behaviors displayed by characters in the films, paying close attention to signs of mental illness. He demonstrates that learning to read a film can be as absorbing as watching one. By viewing these films through the lens of mental health, readers can hone their observational skills and learn to assess the accuracy of depictions of mental illness in popular media.