Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Into Madness [schizophrenia] (1989)

A social worker friend of mine brought me this on VHS, taped off HBO. The quality is poor, but watchable, and the content is interesting enough to make up for it. 

The New York Times wrote: Alan and Susan Raymond are masters of the lingering camera. In their affecting new documentary, ''Into Madness,'' Ms. Raymond asks a question of a victim of schizophrenia; an answer is given; then, instead of cutting away, the camera holds the moment. In the silent aftermath, we see emotions in the faces that go deeper than the word.

They resonate despair. The documentary makers, best remembered for their ''Police Tapes,'' focus this time on Bob, Missy and Steven, who have been diagnosed as chronic schizophrenics, ''a cruel life sentence,'' as Ms. Raymond calls it in her spare commentary. The strength of the [documentary] is in the interviews. Thirty-five-year-old Bob, who has been sick for 17 years, answers questions readily, with a little smile and an air of plausibility that collides with his disjointed yet oddly grammatical words: ''I think the most important thing the devil can do is to self-sacrifice to coordinate the K Mart walk so pleasure can be evened out.'' Twenty-seven-year-old Missy, who became ill when she was 15, is more coherent but never smiles: ''For the rest of my life, I'll just be sitting in a chair. Won't that be fun? It'll be a real bummer.'' And 28-year-old Steven's mild manner is belied by some of his expressed desires - ''to beat a baseball bat into the head of a gentleman.'' As Ms. Raymond reminds us more than once, the causes of schizophrenia are unknown and the treatment, by drugs, is far from sure.

The parents offer strikingly similar memories of their children's promising beginnings, accompanied by heartbreaking old photographs of animated young faces and active bodies. In their teens the youths suddenly, unaccountably, began to hear voices and have been in and out of hospitals ever since, calmed by drugs. The parents, still puzzling over why fate should have struck them so harshly, continue to look for glimmers of improvement, but they are long past the consolations of self-deception. In a particularly moving scene, Steven tosses a baseball with his father, whom he had physically attacked some weeks earlier. Home movies show us Steven as a well-coordinated Little Leaguer. He began hallucinating at the age of 18, and has since been in 22 different hospitals. Now, under medication to control his hostility, he is, as Ms. Raymond puts it, ''very low functioning.'' But he can still throw and catch a baseball with ease. His father says, ''Today's a good day.'' That, this painfully honest work tells us, is the best these parents can hope for.

Initially airing on HBO’s “America Undercover” series, this riveting documentary focuses on three families shattered by the psychiatric disorder of schizophrenia. Subjects “Bob,” “Missy” and “Steven” have lived for over a decade with schizophrenia. The film documents the difficult day-to-day existence of both those afflicted with this order and the families searching for answers to their loved ones’ suffering. This film also shows the varied and variably successful treatment methods for each of the subjects—one is placed in a group home, one is placed in an institution, and one is cared for at home. The documentary was critically acclaimed for its compassionate treatment of mental illness.


  1. Wow, I never thought I would get to see this again. Though I remember it being in color , I could be wrong and anyways as long as I can see it again. I am stoked!

  2. Never alone with schizophrenia.

    Thanks mate!