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Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'

Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'arc also has several connections to mental illness, beginning with the fact that Joan of Arc was played by Maria Falconneti, an actress who later became mentally ill and committed suicide in Argentina. Also, Artaud is cast in the film as one of the principal actors, and the use of close-ups and physiognomy make reference to one of the foundational tools of psychiatry. The particular history of the film director's cut is significant as well: the film was censored in France and accidentally burned in Germany, and it disappeared for more than half a century until it finally reappeared in the closet of a mental institution outside Oslo!

 

Mental illness is fundamentally a question of language, and is also a question placed onto language itself, since we build language on the basis of exclusion. Madness is the language of the excluded. One of the things that interested me the most about the patients' intervention in the film was their ability to "do the voices" of the psychiatrists and other institutional staff. This ability is seldom present on the other side--the language of the institution can never mimic those subjected to its dominant discourse. When patients' statements are cited in clinical discourses they always appear as manifestations of the diagnosis. In other words, language represents a set of symptoms. The same applies to the reading of the so-called art of the mentally ill.

 

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