Images Of Bedlam


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Images Of Bedlam
"A clear-sighted, realistic look at a phenomenon long swathed in myth."

Art and psychiatry have a long and tangled history together, manifesting over the past century in popular crazes for romantic images of mentally ill women and in fads for displaying the scribblings of sensationalised 'madmen'. This film adds a telling footnote to that story, showing, as it does, three Bedlam residents producing modern and sophisticated art as a means of dealing with their mental health issues. It's a clear-sighted, realistic look at a phenomenon long swathed in myth.

Dan is an artist fascinated by extreme facial expressions who has used his time in the world's oldest psychiatric unit studying other residents and developing his style. Suffering from manic depression and formerly from anorexia, he can trace the history of his illness through the changes in his work, gaining a better understanding of how he has tended to look at himself. Terence, meanwhile, found his way into care when looking for somebody to cure him of homosexuality, and his charismatic drawings have since helped him to come to terms with it, also helping to process a difficult childhood and gain better control of his depression. Then there's Stephanie, who has OCD, and whose cartoon paintings explore the subject as it relates to her own life and to others'.

Two things stand out about these three people in this context. The first is that they all have a good degree of technical proficiency - they're serious about what they're doing, not just playing around as part of somebody else's project. The second is that, if you met them in the street, you probably wouldn't realise they were ill. Bedlam has given them the tools and the support they need to function like anybody else, and they're no less intelligent or articulate. They are not locked away because they can't cope; they are supported so that they can.

Though this will seem obvious to many readers, it's still something that many people have difficulty grasping, and films like this have an important role to play in changing perceptions of both mental illness and its treatment. There's no preaching going on here, however, and the stories the participants tell are interesting in their own tight, whilst looking at their art will leave many viewers wanting to see more. Images Of Bedlam is a glimpse into a separated world that turns out not to be so different after all, but to be all the more interesting because of that.

Reviewed on: 09 Sep 2014
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An exploration of the way in which creating art can help residents of the world's oldest psychiatric institution to cope with their problems.

Director: Gareth Rubin

Starring: Dan Duggan, Terence Wilde, Stephanie Bates

Year: 2013

Runtime: 10 minutes

Country: UK



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