Film London Jarman Award-winner Luke Fowler’s 16mm feature portrait of radical anti-psychiatrist R.D. Laing is introduced by John Foot, author of The Man Who Closed the Asylums, about Laing’s Italian counterpart, Franco Basaglia.
All Divided Selves (2011, 93 mins) / Luke Fowler
The social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s were spearheaded by the charismatic, guru-like figure of Glasgow born Psychiatrist R.D. Laing. In his now classic text “The Politics of Experience” (1967) Laing argued that normality entailed adjusting ourselves to the mystification of an alienating and depersonalizing world. Thus, those society labels as ‘mentally ill’ are in fact ‘hyper-sane’ travelers, conducting an inner voyage through aeonic time. The film concentrates on archival representations of Laing and his colleagues as they struggled to acknowledge the importance of considering social environment and disturbed interaction in institutions as significant factors in the aetiology of human distress and suffering.
All Divided Selves reprises the vacillating responses to these radical views and the less forgiving responses to Laing’s latter career shift; from eminent psychiatrist to enterprising celebrity. The result is a dense, engaging and lyrical collage. Fowler weaves archival material with his own filmic observations, marrying a dynamic soundtrack of field recordings with recorded music by Éric La Casa, Jean-Luc Guionnet and Alasdair Roberts.
In association with Verso Books.
John Foot is Professor of Modern Italian History in the School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol. He has published several books on sports and contemporary Italian history. He writes a blog for the Italian magazine Internazionale and has written for the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, and History Today. His The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care has been praised in the Guardian and Financial Times for its sensitivity and deft overview of mental health care in 1960s Italy.