Titicut Follies (Wiseman, 1967)

Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman, 1967)

I’ve now seen two Wiseman documentaries, but I can already tell he’s one of the best and I’m definitely going to have to dive into his other work. With Titicut Follies, we are brought inside the mental ward of a prison in the 1960s. As you can imagine, things operated a little differently 40+ years ago, and what Wiseman has really done here is captured a time period through these people and situations. The film’s images act as a narration, as we are allowed to view the cruel happenings (some provoked and others just natural) with only the sounds of the inmates, guards, and physicians to guide us through.

Though this can easily be viewed as a critique on the institution and those running it, I’m not actually sure those were Wiseman’s intentions.  The film’s main strength, in my opinion, is just the opportunity to see the lives of people most of us have no relationship with. There are a few segments involving the paranoid schizophrenic who pleads that he does not belong in this ward that were especially interesting to me because I do personally know someone who suffers from this. These segments helped remind me that these are all real people, despite how animated and acted many of them appear. This is a hard watch, but truly worth it.  9/10


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