Frederick Wiseman Robert Coles - Essay

Robert Coles

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ironically [Titicut Follies] is so effective because it is not another Snake Pit, another brutal and unrelenting exposé of life behind the closed doors of a mental hospital. Yes, there are some scandalous and disgusting moments, but by and large they are not those that offer us the standard "backward" scene, with its shrieks and groans and hilarious desolation or grim excitement. I have seen much worse in other state hospitals that Massachusetts maintains.

Something else is at work to give this film its power, and to unsettle its critics, many of whom are objecting to the nudity allowed or demanding to know why the faces of inmates are used, in clear violation of the right to privacy…. If Frederick Wiseman has offended the sensibilities of his fellow citizens he has done it I believe by making them nervous about far more than nudity (in this day of bikinis and miniskirts) or the individual's right to privacy (in this day of wire-tapping, of cleverly manipulative advertising, of espionage that has been into so many things that any number of people can reasonably doubt whose purposes they have served and with whose money).

After a showing of Titicut Follies the mind does not dwell on the hospital's ancient and even laughable physical plant, or its pitiable social atmosphere. What sticks, what really hurts is the sight of human life made cheap and betrayed…. But much more significantly, we see...

(The entire section is 421 words.)