case of J.D-B.
is a twenty-one year old man, who has been diagnosed in the
past with schizophrenia. He is unmarried, has no children, and is
currently not working.
of the history was taken from J.’s sister, who appears to be the
highlighted by J.’s sister were:
of Presenting Complaint:
sister told me that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia about two
years ago, and that he has never been in a completely remitted state
since first presentation to Psychiatric services at that point.
described a gradual deterioration in his mental state over the last
initial manifestation of this was when he was responding to apparent
auditory hallucinations, as if he believed he was Jesus Christ.
later began repeating senseless phrases over and over again, until
the words were lost. He would often do this whilst walking through
town, with a personal stereo turned up very loudly through a
had exhibited increasingly bizarre behaviour, for example:
1. He insisted on wrestling his younger brother, whilst wearing
his underpants, and a brassiere.
2. He placed food he had prepared for his brother in a
recently, J. had become quite aggressive. He had assaulted a friend
with a rock, apparently laughing throughout and after the incident.
It seems that this episode had followed a previous assault on a
sister mentioned that a recent miscarriage she had suffered, had
upset J., and that his problems had appeared to deteriorate further
after this happened. He had apparently taken the baby’s body from
the hospital back to his home.
sister did not know precisely, but thinks he might have been on a
Birth & Development:
Unremarkable as far as known. J. was born and raised in
a underprivileged area of town, and has lived all of his life there.
& Childhood :
Mother: Died seventeen
years previously giving birth to J.’s brother, when J. was four
Father : Described
as something of a dictator, who bullied (and still bullies) J. and
sister remembers him dousing J. in ice-cold water to “harden him
up”, and paying J. and his brother to dress up in their dead
mother’s clothes and dance with him.
is also described as an “alcoholic”, who would also “take
anything else he could get his hands on”.
Brother :Four years his junior, is seventeen, and still at school.
Father is training him up to be an “Olympic wrestling champion”.
J. is often used for wrestling practice.
Sister : Two
years his junior, is nineteen. In the absence of J., she told me
that the child she had miscarried, was in fact the child of J. She
is not sure, but suspects J. was in a state of mind to realise that
the baby was his.
tells me that she often acts in the role of J.’s dead mother, and
finds that he appears to take comfort if she talks in this role.
is no known psychiatric history in the immiediate or distant family,
apart from J.’s “alcoholism”.
J. is not currently employed, and has never worked.
No long-term relationships known.
currently lives with his family, who consist of the above members,
and also his grandmother who suffers with dementia.
is not currently working, and the majority of his income is from
social network outside his family, is mainly the local Blind &
Disabled support group, which he spends a lot of time with.
has a "special friend" from this group, an eleven year old
blind girl with whom his sister hints, the relationship may be
slightly more than platonic.
appeared older than his chronological age. He was unkempt, dressed
shabbily, and was wearing what appeared to be a full set of gold
teeth. He often did not seem to be making sense, and appeared to be
responding to hallucinations more than answering any questions
directed at him. H e had poor eye contact, and was emotionally
incongruent with the fragments of speech that were comprehensible.
rate and pressured.
to examine systematically.
to believe with full conviction, that he was Jesus Christ, and that
he was having a discussion with Adolf Hitler.
to be having auditory hallucinations of Hitler speaking to him. It
was unclear as to whether he was having visual hallucinations of the
he was angry and agitated whilst talking to “Hitler”. Unable to
examine subjective idea of mood.
history of J.D-B’s case, may at first glance appear somewhat
extreme. Unfortunately, second glance does not afford any further
depth, as this history is actually based on the main character from
a film which I suppose makes it a little easier to stomach.
or Julien Donkey-Boy, is also the name of this film by Harmony
Korine, famous for directing other little-but-better-known films
“Kids” and “Gummo”. The film was said to have been
“inspired” by Korine’s uncle who suffers with schizophrenia.
picture is filmed with a hand held video-camera, and is throughout,
a typical “Art”movie, complete with scratchy soundtrack and
grainy focus. Because of this, it conforms to “Dogme 95”, film
“regulations” drawn up by a group of Scandinavian fim-makers and
described as “a vow of chastity to reject anything deemed
artificial”. What this means in effect, is a ban on the use of
artificial light, costumes and props (apart from “natural”props
found on the film set). After the making of the film, the directors
must confess to any rule-breaking for example, Korine confessed to
using a pillow to make his girlfriend (Julien’s sister) pregnant,
rather than impregnating her the traditional way, because “there
just wasn’t enough time”.
A picture of life
film paints a picture of Julien Donkey-Boy, who suffers with
although the film is unconventional in its filming, and lack of plot
with improvised acting (which may be seen as a method of
representing the erratic nature of Schizophrenia), the portrayal is
certainly a conventional stereotype. I can just imagine the cast
trying to outdo one another in how “Korine’s uncle really might
depending on perspective, I missed the beginning of the film, so
what happens then is a little unclear. From internet reviews I have
read, there are a number of perceptions as to what happens. These
vary from killing a tortoise, to an assault on a boy, to killing and
burying the boy. Although I cannot explain this variation, the
consistent detail is that he is laughing maniacally, with mucous
dripping from his nose, and saliva dribbling from his chin. By
starting the film in this way, it seems that the overall message (at
least subliminally) apart from this latter, is that violence is an
integral part of Schizophrenia.
the film, Julien’s family are caricatured, incorporating more
stereotypes to stack up the cards for a Full (“Mad”) House.
live in Queens, a particularly deprived area of New York.
father to start with, is a bully, and shamelessly competitive with
his children. We see him drinking cough syrup from his slipper to
get high, pushing his gas mask up onto his forehead to retire for a
cigarette whilst listening to a Country & Western record. He
quotes Clint Eastwood from “Dirty Harry” as literature after
dismissing Julien’s verbigerative attempts. We then see him
attempting to pay his son to dress up in the clothes of his dead
mother, and dance with him.
then see Julien’s brother training to be an Olympic wrestling
champ by wrestling bins and his psychotic brother (who is wearing
his sisters bra).
sister is pregnant by him. She telephones him, pretending to be his
dead mother, and while she tells him she loves him and to brush is
teeth, he improvises some testicle-scratching.
get a glimpse of Julien’s social life.
has a friend with no arms who plays drums and cards with his feet.
In one of the rare amusing scenes of the film, when accused of
cheating at cards, he replies “I haven’t got them up my sleeves,
friend is a black albino confined to a wheelchair who raps “ I’m
a black albino from Alabama, from way down South, and I’m
see another of the club’s members (possibly just a visiting
cabaret artist) who is able to invert several lit cigarettes into
his mouth, to then regurgitate and continue smoking them.
is no hint of Julien integrating successfully into the wider
terms of his love life, there is an eleven-year old blind girl with
whom it is strongly suggested that Julien is having a love affair
film itself gives the impression that it chronicles an extended
period, and through the whole of it, Julien talks gibberish, and
continues to behave bizarrely. There is no point through the film
where Julien is well, and he remains psychotic for the whole period.
What message does
picture of a patient suffering with schizophrenia is one of someone
of the time
of the family? They’re all mad too, and probably bad too. The
picture of the parents is one of abuse as illustrated above. The
suggestions of the film are on the same level as the
Schizophrenogenic Mother model, whereby the blame for aetiology is
shifted onto the parents.
But it’s only a
course, all this can be dismissed as the ramblings of a politically
correct Psychiatrist (which as it happens, I’m not, in fact
P.C.ness is one of my pet hates), because at the end of the day:
only a film, and you can take it with a pinch of salt.
know that, because we work in mental health.
this is a “serious” film, completely on the opposite pole to its
film with “a meaning”, with artistic integrity which will
represent reality with no regard to aesthetic considerations. The
film is also said to be based on it’s Director’s uncle, so it
must be true.
the more reason to take this film as a realistic representation of
my opinion, but what of the lay public?
the film critics as a sample of the public with no professional
knowledge of Mental Illness:
Do the critics take
this film seriously?
film may be realistic in its portrayal of Schizophrenia, but that
does not really educate its audience, nor influence us to empathise”
film is a beautiful elegy on being different” –Nicholas Dawson
schizo film about an actual Schizophrenic (Korine’s
institutionalised uncle)” –Alfredo Garcia
nuns, an armless drummer….Korine’s world is chock full of
revolting characters and images, but for no apparent reason other
than shock value….best bet is to skip it altogether”
with the oft-trite family blaming…..completely clichéd notion
that the father is the sole destroyer of his family” –Ted Prigge
to say and nowhere to go”
Did they like it?
film of piercing beauty and pain” -Kevin Thomas
surely does not merit the pejorative of cinematic elevator
music….it made me want to throw something at the screen”
–Harvey S. Karten
a star rating…would be like grading a child’s fingerpainting….hard
to know if it’s cynical
-and possibly- offensive voyeurism…..or if Korine is
liberating the freaks”
exercise in disgust” –Ana Marie Cox
to say and nowhere to go”
an acquired taste” –Dean Schmitz
I left the film feeling that people suffering with Schizophrenia and
their families would be offended by the film, and the fact that the
film was so barefaced about these offensive issues, made me quite
for entertainment, I was not entertained.
is not clear what the message is that Korine is trying to convey. On
one hand you could argue that his point is that it is Us, Society
who have the prejudices, and using this film is reflecting these
back to us, on the other hand that his ideas are simply an
unprocessed product of these same prejudices. Either way, the film
is rather offensive (which was probably the intention), and it would
be interesting to know what his uncle’s view is of the film based
What about the
I decided to present this at our academic meeting, I thought it
would be a good idea to show selected scenes from the film to
illustrate my points. Unfortunately, I found that no-one had
actually heard of the film.
video rentals within a half-hour drive stocked it, and when I tried
to buy it, only the MEGA-Virgin mega-store sold it, and only on DVD
suppose one good thing about Dogme ’95, was that its rules made
this particular film so bad that the damage it could potentially
have caused was limited.
both an artistic, and a political point of view, I would hope that
the memory of this film fades with the video recording.