Don't hide the madness perception, bipolar and the film form

Master Thesis


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Human perception is a process that begins with sensory input that is organized and then interpreted. During this process there is a movement of information about an event in the real world, into information that represents that event in the mind. This movement of information in the form of perception is similar to the filming process; where the event, sensory input, organisation and interpretation is like the pro-filmic event (that which exists in the world before or regardless of whether it is filmed), the light entering the camera lens, and, the editing process and audience experience, respectively. When these systems are influenced at any stage of the process, there is an alteration in the resulting representation. The pro-filmic event can be influenced through the filmmaking techniques used to record it that may influence beliefs that concern the event. For example, the recording of films that concern mental illness need to be approached with caution because treatment of the pro-filmic event can either reinforce or challenge stereotypes about the mentally ill. Bipolar is a mental disorder of mood that is often represented with wild inaccuracy in films. The biographical drama, Shine (1996), for example, attempts to represent the life of David Helfgott, a musician who suffered a mental breakdown and spent subsequent years in mental asylums. He is portrayed as an imbecile, always mumbling indistinctly. In the film, the connection between psychopathology and creativity is supported, heavy- handedly. This demonstrates how the intervention (by the filmmaker and his filmmaking techniques) can transform meaning and influence viewer perception through the film medium. For the case-study documentary film, Don’t Hide the Madness (2017), I use recording and editing techniques to portray a personal account of bipolar in a way that challenges mainstream beliefs about the disorder. I argue that this application of the film medium has the capacity to confront stigma and change perceptions about mental illness.