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55 steps

Аuthor: Аbikenova Ayazhan

Editor: Кигбаева Камила





     There are hundreds of films about people with mental disabilities, most of them based on real events. Such films are interesting because the characters think in a different direction and are distinguished by an unusual mind and atypical views on life. They are attracted by the fact that they give an opportunity to look at the life of such "special" faces, as in normal life we meet them very rarely. Now let's discuss one of these films.


      "55 Steps" is a film based on the real story, which touches on ethical issues in relation to patients in psychiatric hospitals in the 90s. Director Bille August presented in the film the fate of Eleanor Reese, who suffered from schizophrenia and fought for the rights of the mentally ill as patients, the role of this character played Helena Bonham Carter.


     Eleanor Reese is a 44-year-old woman diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia who was treated at St. Mary's Hospital for the mentally ill in San Francisco.


       Schizophrenia is a mental illness that represents the imbalance of mental functions such as thinking, emotions and motor skills. It is manifested by hallucinations, in particular by hearing, delirium, statements about superhuman abilities, expressed by apathy, speech breakup, inadequate emotional response. And paranoid schizophrenia is a clinical type of schizophrenia, the peculiarity of which is the proneness of the feeling in patients that they are constantly being pursued, and vocal hallucinations of threatening nature.


      Eleanor was irritable, with sharp movements; at times she had indecipherable speech and emotional instability. Despite her diagnosis, she was able to make decisions about herself, could clearly assess the situation in reality, and required an adequate human attitude from others. In the film, Helena portrayed Eleanor as a sweet woman with a kind heart, ready to help in any way she could, impatient with the unfair treatment of anyone.


       At that time, in the U.S., as well as in other countries around the world, doctors were prescribing treatment to patients, which was considered necessary and effective, but without the consent of patients. At the hospital, they were forced to take strong psychotropic drugs (medications that affect the nervous system) despite complaints and side effects, because patients with mental illness were treated as incapacitated citizens. Eleanor was one of these "victims" when she had physical side symptoms after the medications prescribed to her. She fully understood the need for treatment, but wanted to take less painful medications. Because in the 90s in California, the LPC (The Legal Practice Course) law did not explicitly give up anti-psychotic drugs, those who were forced to hospitalize because of danger to themselves or others could take the drugs without their consent.


       Eleanor, realizing she could not do it alone, hired her own lawyer, Colette Hughes. Before legal practice Colette worked as a nurse in one of the psychiatric hospitals, so she was familiar with the fate of these patients. Then the film shows the plots of their acquaintance and the new friendship born. Absolutely two different individuals will become more than just a lawyer and a client. Despite Eleanor's eccentric behavior, Colette treated her as a friend, not as a child or an inferior person, as others did.


       Colette tried her best to win Eleanor's case for the benefit of all "victims" of the psychiatric hospital, in order to give them the right to choose treatment, especially those who had mild abnormalities and needed short-term therapy. Colette spent days and nights just looking for loopholes to help Eleanor. But later she had problems in her personal life and deteriorating health. However, she sacrificed everything for a reason - after all, the court unanimously ruled that patients who unwittingly go to medical facilities for short-term treatment in crisis situations, may refuse to take antipsychotic drugs - and this decision remains in force today.


      The end of the film is very unpredictable ... In order to screen such a strong story for yourself, we will not reveal all the cards, but we strongly advise you to watch this movie.


      The director's idea was not to evoke a feeling of pity for the mentally ill, but that there will always be people who need our help, and humanity should not be alien to the concept of kindness, because we exist partly only thanks to it.