Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
God Knows Where I Am: A Death in New Hampshire
Hampshire’s state motto is still “live free or die,” but the steady population
influx from Massachusetts has made it a very different place. Ironically, the “live
free or die” ethos apparently still persists in terms of patients’ rights and legal
competency. In the case of Linda Bishop, a state judge essentially released her
from all treatment constraints over the objections of her family and mental
health caregivers, putting her in a position to make good on their motto. Starting
with the discovery of her body, Jedd & Todd Wider work backwards,
chronicling Bishop’s final days in God
Knows Where I Am (trailer
opens today in New York.
learn from Bishop’s friends and family she was once a loving mother and the
general life of any party, but her struggles with schizophrenia took a toll on
her personal relationships. As is often the case, she periodically went off her
medication, based on seemingly reasonable concerns. Unfortunately, she was
suffering from full-fledged paranoid delusions by the time she started
squatting in an empty farmhouse.
Wider’s base their film on the diary Bishop kept during her time living
secretly in the farmhouse (living off apples and snow melt from the back yard),
which the police investigators also relied on to determine a cause of death.
The excerpts narrated by Lori Singer deliberately escalate in their delusional
disconnect from reality, but they also paint a picture of a woman who still
terms of tone, GKWIA fits into the
spectrum somewhere between Carol Morley’s Dreams of a Life (the docudrama about Joyce Vincent, the woman discovered in her
London studio apartment three years after her solitary death) and Peter Liechti’s
The Sound of Insects (an experimental
meditation on an unknown body found naturally mummified in the woods).
Together, these three films would make a hardcore depressing triple feature.
GKWIA should definitely
inspire greater empathy for those wrestling with mental illness. Frankly, it
also might challenge some preconceptions about cops. Not that we should be
surprised, but it is rather striking how sensitive and empathetic the
responding officers are when discussing Bishop and her diary.
general, GKWIA is a quiet contemplation
of human frailty and mortality, but it also holds obvious policy implications.
Fittingly, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey offers some medical perspective, but his
commentary is scrupulously circumspect, even though he would be fully justified
in saying “I damn well told you something like this could happen.”
times, GKWIA is almost too pretty,
resembling a series of Ozu pillow shots, but the Wider Brothers clearly convey
the wrenching grief of Bishop’s survivors. They deserved better treatment from
the system, just as much as Bishop did, if not more so. Recommended for
thoughtful viewers who are not prone to clinical depression or spiritual
malaise, God Knows Where I Am opens
today (3/31) in New York, at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.
Labels: Documentary, E. Fuller Torrey