How does the director James Mangold in his film Girl, Interrupted, convey the development of Susanna’s character? Introduction
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...
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