Girl, Interrupted, directed by James Mangold in 1999, is an adaptation of Susanna Kaysen’s semi-autobiographical novel. Set in the sixties, the film explores how an eighteen year old girl, Susanna, diagnosed with a “borderline” personality, regains mental health through her journey at the Claymoore metal institution. The friendships Susanna forms at Claymoore are the primary catalysts for her rehabilitation; and Mangold conveys the stages of her psychological development through the utilisation of mise-en-scene and filmic techniques, revealing both the positive and negative effects of these friendships on Susanna’s journey to self-discovery.
Paragraph 1 James Mangold communicates Susanna’s mental fragility and feelings of confusion through the employment of filmic techniques. Music, flashbacks, body language and costuming are just a few of the techniques Mangold uses at the commencement of the film to emphasise Susanna’s entrapment due to her struggle to remain in the present. Susanna finds “it hard to stay in one place,” the director accompanies Susanna’s flashbacks with off-key, distorted, non-diegetic sound to illustrate to the audience Susanna’s confusion and mental instability.
Even though it becomes apparent later that Susanna was with Dr Crumble all along, the unreliable narration puzzles the audience, to aid their comprehension of Susanna’s mental state. Following her psychological assessment with Dr Crumble, Susanna is escorted to the car by the arm, which draws a comparison to how children or the visually impaired are cared for. Mangold cleverly uses body language in this instance to portray Susanna’s vulnerability and lack of independence.
As Susanna arrives at the ward, Mangold frames her through bars, to show how she is both physically and psychologically trapped by her mental illness. The incorporation of stripes in Susanna’s costuming also symbolise the protagonist’s entrapment. Although Susanna’s mental fragility is quite evident at the beginning of the film, through Mangold’s use of techniques, as the film progresses Susanna’s mental health begins to improve catalysed by the formation of new friendships. Paragraph 2 Susanna becomes increasingly confident with the establishment of friendships t Claymoore, which is demonstrated to the audience through Managold’s use of mise-en-scene. Susanna’s friendship with the girls at Claymoore, especially Lisa, sees her emerging from her shell and even acting independently, which is apparent through Mangold’s choice in music, costuming, camera techniques and overlaid panning shots. The bowling scene is the first scene in film, where the Comradery of the girls is evident. This is made obvious to the audience through Mangold’s choice in uplifting music and incorporation of diegetic laughter.
The close up shot of Georgina’s salute to Lisa, further emphasises this notion of comradery between the girls and also establishes Lisa’s dominance in the group. Additionally, Mangold instils a sense of child-like innocence in the scene by clothing the girls in pyjamas and by incorperating the playful motion of torch lights in the hallways, in order to evoke the image of a girls’ sleepover. The director also plays lyrical music when Susanna begins bowling in symbolism of her beginning to fit in with the girls.
This rewards of this breakthrough in Susanna’s development, is witnessed in the scene where Susanna takes the initiative to comfort Polly. This is one of scenes in the film where Susanna’s independence is established and she is seen as the authorative figure, which is contrasts the fact that Lisa is usually the dominant character in the film. To establish Susanna’s power in the scene Mangold positions Susanna to be standing and Lisa to be sitting while they are having a conversation.
Additionally the camera follows Susanna, which empowers Susanna over Lisa and suggests that Susanna is the focal point of the scene. Even though Susanna’s progress is encouraging in these scenes, her friendship with Lisa soon begins to have adverse affects on her mental, this is also established through Mangold’s employment of filmic techniques. Paragraph 3 Despite Susanna’s development and increasing in confidence, Mangold illustrates how the character of Lisa negatively influences her and causes her progress to become stagnant.
From the commencement of the film Mangold foreshadows Lisa as a manipulative character and although she begins with aiding Susanna’s development, she soon becomes a negative influence on Susanna. To evidence the power Lisa’s character had over Susanna, Mangold often used high camera angles to show Lisa looking down on Susanna, this is evidenced in the scene when Susanna refuses to leave with Toby. Mangold also incorporated shots of Susanna looking to Lisa for her approval before making a decision, which is witnessed just before Susanna participates in bowling.
This dependence on Lisa has negative effects on Susanna, which is observed when Lisa is absent causing Susanna to have a childish outbreak when Valerie puts her in the bathtub. Finally, the basement scene, Susanna’s lowest point in the film, illustrates Lisa “playing the villain. ” Lisa is portrayed as a villain through her ghostly appearance, which is encapsulated by her pale complexion, dark circles under her eyes, her white gown and her lifeless, bleached hair.
Lisa’s outer appearance is symbolic of her lifeless interior, which is supported by Susanna’s later echoing statement that Lisa is “dead already. ” The ominous music and how the camera spins around Susanna assists in illustrating her confusion and helplessness. Although Susanna Paragraph 4 Susanna’s final stage of development is conveyed when she achieves mental health and becomes a positive role model to the institutionalised characters, exemplified through Mangold’s inclusion of mise-en-scene.