Why ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ will forever remain a jewel?

Only three times, in the history of Academy has a BIG FIVE feat ever accomplished. It Happened One Night(1934; Dir: Frank Capra) held this record for nearly four decades, until Miloš Forman created his masterpiece to stun the critics and audience equally. The vision he perceived, after interpreting Ken Kesey’s famous book, transformed into his most cherished oeuvre. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has set a milestone, with its rigorous and genuine performances which have garnered an iconic status in present generation. Although Ken Kesey left the film midway through due to creative differences, film garnered a big thumbs up universally. Almost four decades have departed, but this artistic venture has beautifully undergone the jolt of time. Roger Ebert said about the film, “Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a film so good in so many of its parts that there’s a temptation to forgive it when it goes wrong.”

Miloš Forman, the mastermind behind the triumph of the film, exclusively turned a great book into a cinematic ascendancy. In the 48th Academy Award, legendary auteurs, such as Stanley Kubrick(Barry London), Robert Altman(Nashville), Federico Fellini (Amarcode) and Sidney Lumet(Dog Day Afternoon), were in the race for ‘Best Director’. But the Czech Director’s downright grandeur, gave him a spot apart. It sure is not easy to pull such brilliant work, when the Author himself left the lobby half way. Yet, through his vision, commendable Screenwriting from Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman, his grip over the art and dedicated cast and crew the history was rewritten. 

Randle P. McMurphy is shifted to ‘Salem State Hospital’, a Mental Asylum after a short span of sentence from a prison for statutory rape. The sheer brilliance of this character lies in the fact, that it puts you under a dilemma. One finds him rebellious and sporadic like a teenager, this amuses other patients, they find their share of sanity with him. On the other hand, Randle is a savage, with his first conversation with the institution head he nearly spills his gut out. Now, to execute such hitches in the character Miloš Forman just had the right being in his mind. Jack Nicholson, Period. His performance was a beautiful blend of Faye Dunaway(Chinatown) and Jack Torrence(The Shinning) that completely usurped the screen. On-screen, Jack Nicholson, at his prime, was considered ‘Master’ of portraying dark antiheroes, psychopathic characters instead this time he was a man pretending to be a psychopath.

OFOCN is an acting institution in itself, and every character a subject in their own flair. 

Director Miloš Forman was turned down by The Exorcist actress and Academy winner Ellen Burstyn, and several other actresses for the role of Nurse Mildred Ratched. But when Louise Fletcher took over the role, little did she imagined about the nightmare she was about to instill within her audiance. Nurse Ratched, in the present time, is one of the most deferenced villain of all time. She is chilling and coercive in every frame, her control and bewield over the patients is nothing less than Dictatorship. Those dreadful eyes she lays, can terrorize the most perplex minded physchopath. The most baffling element of her portrayal was her unostentatious execution. Except for one time, she was unflinchingly under her senses. Nurse Ratched’s intimidating skills were foreboding, as she puppeteered her patients through their fear. Her reign was challenged when a defiant and impulsive McMurphy entered her Nest. Her silence gets into your skin; in a scene Randle even calls her ‘Mildred’. Trivial it may seem to be, but he clearly announced his dissent before her patients and colleagues, yet she took it like a boss.

Every patient in the Asylum, no matter how subtly, puts you through a close encounter with their character’s disorder. In fact, Brad Dourif as stuttering ‘Billy Bibbit’ made his epochal debut and brought the world on his feet. In his screen time, he provides over the top exemplification of a stammering person. No doubt, it bagged him numerous awards in the category of ‘Best Supporting Actor’.

The character Mr. Martini played by Danny DeVito facing delusions mesmerizes with his expressions. DeVito is said to have made an illusionary friend, only to justify his role. It took a toll on him, he eventually experienced nervous breakdown several times before snapping out of it. Mr. Martini didn’t have much for dialog and conversation but the actor plays with expressions and benefits with the character’s disorder.

An Asylum is never really one without a paranoid. In this case, it was Dale Harding. Extremely philosophical and educated paranoid. William Redfield portrays an eccentric patient who voluntarily resides in the Asylum. Nurse Ratched’s though, understands his intelligence and therefore, keeps an edge over him through discussions over his marital life. Redfield was damn realistic and breathed life into the character during intense moments. It was revealed that he had to face hypertension, later after finishing the schedule.

Actor Sydney Lassick plays a hissy fit patient Charlie Cheswick with excessive childlike tantrums. Cheswick’s childish mentality tends him to follow McMurphy blindfolded. Emotional breakdowns on trivial stuff are served with excellent performance.

Nearly, everyone on the main cast went through turbulent circumstances to deliver unprecedented performance. Their hardwork and pain was suitably paid by the viewers and their significant appraisal.

Miloš Forman, precisely speaking, utilizes minimal background score over character and their cleverly contrived expressions to create suitable environment. There are several intense moments, where the patients loose their calm. Characters were loud, taut circumstances yet they didn’t let their voices turn into noise. All of them were perceptible, credits to the director providing them equal screen space. At the end of the day, he projected what was envisaged with acclaim.

And therefore, the stars perfectly lined up to glorify the aesthetic excellence of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.


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