Film Review: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Milos Forman’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest depicts the rebellious nature of the 197os through a strained relationship between Randle, a psychiatric patient(Jack Nicholson),  and Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), a character symbolic and iconic of authority, or what the 197os upheavals thought it to be. She snares back to requests and questions with dogmatic, parent-like answers like ‘because’, and frustrates Randle to the point of making his stay longer than needed. He is essentially the most transparently sane, with able gesture and thought-process,  yet Nurse Ratched is able to find illness in simply the words that leave his mouth.

The characters in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest are memorable and comical, though not in a hurtful way. It’s a true depiction of that era’s psychiatric unit: black men cleaning up and keeping control, dressed in white slacks and shirt, and neat nurses in white dresses, all women. The main social premise is that authority, the nurses, are the ones causing the permanent stay of some of the patients, because they make them feel inferior: not until later do we and Randle find out that most of the patients are there on a voluntary basis. Randle was transferred from jail to the unit–but to go to the unit on your own free will he finds insane in itself. The social metaphor moves from the book to the screen in a very economical and entertaining way.

When Randle tries to help a young patient, show him to a few pleasures of the real world, it results in panic and paranoia for the young boy, Billy, when Nurse Ratched threatens to tell his mother of the things he did under the finger of Randle. Randle is trying to preach rebellion–that their is better ways to do things than what the status quo says. But ultimately, most of the patients are trapped in their own familiarity with the psych unit and cannot escape. The one who follows Randle in his escape, is the one who didn’t talk through out the movie.

A touching and involving look into the ideology of the 70s, and featuring a powerhouse performance from Jack Nicholson who carries the film almost on his charismatic back; without someone as assured in his profession as Jack Nicholson, this film could have been completely different: seriously, Imagine someone else as Randle. An excellent film that holds up the  same inequality argument forty some years afterwords.

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