One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Tragi-comedy, Psychological Drama  |   Run Time - 133 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Milos Forman had proven his talent for astute social comedy in such earlier Czech films as Loves of a Blonde (1965) and The Firemen's Ball (1967), and his adept treatment of Cuckoo's Nest's metaphorically loaded conflict fulfilled the promise of an immigrant observer of American culture indicated in his first U.S. feature, Taking Off (1971). Shot on location at the Oregon State Hospital, and visually imprisoning the characters in tightly framed compositions, Haskell Wexler's and Bill Butler's cinematography underlines the psychological as well as physical confinement dogging the patients. The restrained, soft-spoken control of Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched contrasts with the thoughtful vigor of Jack Nicholson's McMurphy, further emphasizing both the need to revolt and the difficulty in doing so posed by such consistent, quiet, internalized power. For a culture battered by the chaotic rebellions of the late 1960s/early 1970s, and the serial failures of institutional authority culminating in Watergate and the fall of Saigon, Cuckoo's Nest's resigned yet hopeful portrayal of spirited non-conformity touched a nerve, turning it into one of the most popular films of 1975. The independently produced film became only the second film in history to sweep all five top Academy Awards, winning Best Picture for producers Saul Zaentz and 31-year-old Michael Douglas, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay for Lawrence Hauben's and Bo Goldman's adaptation of the Kesey novel. Shrewdly combining roustabout fervor and humor with an acknowledgement of society's different limits, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest effectively communicated the disillusionment of the waning counter-culture even as it optimistically asserted that one rebel could make a difference.