“Girl, interrupted” of 1996 is the film on borderline disorder par excellence, as there is no other film that deals so extensively and in such detail with this type of disorder, which today is one of the most important issues in psychiatry precisely because of its recent spread, especially in younger individuals.
The various facets of this disorder make it difficult both to describe and to understand. In fact, the film is based on the real-life experience of Susanna Kaysen, a patient of a US psychiatric clinic in the 1960s, as recounted by herself in her personal diary that later became a book.
“Declared healthy and sent back into the world. Final diagnosis: borderline recovered. What that means I still don’t understand. Have I ever been insane? Maybe so. Or maybe life is crazy.” (Susanna Kaysen, main character)
Borderline patients suffer from a particular condition that does not allow them to distinguish their emotions in a clear and definite manner. The result of this lack is that they feel different from other people and find it difficult to form stable bonds with them, which then results in a constant feeling of rejection by society and a perpetual fear of abandonment.
In patients suffering from borderline disorder, the image of themselves and their behaviour is unclear, and added to the sense of exclusion, leads them to adopt behaviours in an attempt to reduce the intense experience of emotions: sexual promiscuity, self-harm, substance abuse, eating disorders. Behaviours that, instead of helping them, tend to distance them even further from what society considers ‘normal’.
The film, directed by James Mangold and starring Winona Rider and Angelina Jolie, accurately depicts the protagonist Susanna’s disorder when she is about to embark on a course of treatment: the film is set most of the time in Claymoore Hospital, a place of care where the viewer can immediately recognise different types of psychiatric illnesses, from sociopathic disorder to anorexia nervosa, in the patients.
The protagonist’s journey inside the psychiatric clinic is also a narrative device that allows the director to show Susanna’s different feelings and problems related to her borderline disorder. “Girl, Interrupted” is a movie that gives voice to these problems and feelings, it takes it upon itself to tell a story, a condition that words often fail to describe accurately. Using the protagonist’s point of view, it helps the viewer to immerse himself in her world and to understand how psychic discomfort is an ‘interruption’ in the normal course of one’s being. It is up to the people themselves and their caregivers to find a link that reconnects them to normal life and allows them to pick up where they ‘stopped living’.