What are the messages and meanings of ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s nest’

The film ‘one flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ shows many different messages in the film which relate to how metal care hostels were run at the time of the film. Milos Forman has used a variety of different camera shots, angles and music to portray these to the audience. At the very begging of the film there is a long, establishing shot of the mountains with non-diagetic music playing. The camera films this moving from left to right this shows the open world and represents freedom.

The shot then jumps to one inside the home and the camera moves from right to left to show the contrast of the freedom and vastness of the country side to the home with bars on the windows and surrounded by fences. Also as the camera moves in to the home the non-diagetic music becomes scratchier and distorted this gives the home a slightly scary feel. This begging to the films suggests that the people within the home are in the middle of nowhere, excluded from society and trapped with in the building. This already begins to shows the audience how people with mental illnesses where treated at the time of the film.

A further way in which Forman shows how the home is more of a prison and the contrast between in side and outside is when Macmurphy is being taken into the home, the camera films a shot of a squirrel just on the other side of the fence. The squirrel is used as a symbol of freedom, is on the other side of the fence is it free to do what it wants where as the men are locked inside. The shot is also representative of how the squirrel (an animal) has more freedom than then the men inside the home. This shot also has a deeper meaning of how an animal can be free but a human is not.

This makes the audience question in their own minds how ‘normal’ society really was and is. Forman has used many different techniques to show the segregation between nurse ratchet and the patients. Through out most of the film nurse Ratchet is shot through glass or behind a fence, this has been deliberately done by Milos Forman to distance her from the patients, and to show her superiority. Another way in which Forman shows nurse Ratchets superiority is by often filming her with a low angle shot looking down on the patients.

An example of this is when Macmurphy is trying to teach the chief to play basket ball she is filmed looking down on him using a low angle shot and though a glass window, which gives the effect f her being in power. All these have been done to show nurse ratchets superiority. Nurse Ratchet is in control of all the patients and her job should be to help them men over come their illnesses. But we never see her doing this she just seems to try and control the patients by making them feel venerable, dependant on the everyday system inside the home and by doing this she manages to stay in control of the men.

This leads the audience to question nurse ratchets sanity. That she could be doing a lot more to help the men but instead seems to take pleasure in controlling them. It also shows how dependant she is on the system inside the home as she feels so threatened by Macmurphy when he tries to break this. This shows the audience that maybe the people running the home are in a worse metal state then the patients living inside it. Milos Forman uses many different film techniques through out the film to represent different meaning to the audience.

The helpers in the ward are also filmed above the patients at times through out the film again to show superiority. An example of this is when Washington is talking to Macmurphy in the pool; he is filmed at a low angle using shot reverse shot. This works well in the scene as it further represents the lack of control the patients have, and how much control the people running the home do have. Another scene in the film where camera shots are used to show superiority is on the morning after the party. When nurse is standing closest to the camera and Washington and the other nurse behind her, which makes them appear to be slightly lower.

This shot represent the hierarchy in the home. Nurse, then the two helpers, all looking down on the patients who are the lowest. A further example of a way in which Forman uses camera shots to communicate meanings is when Macmurphy has electro convulsive therapy the shot of inside the room makes it feel very claustrophobic for Macmurphy and makes him feel very inferior, and venerable to what ever the doctors plan to do. All these different shots have been included to show the lack of control the patients have over their own lives and how much the doctors, nurses and other people working in the home control them.

Forman makes many links throughout the film to the ‘insanity’ of the outside world. When they patients go on the fishing trip they see many examples of this; a duck crossing and two people watching a blank TV through a shop window. This leads the audience to think that the outside world is more ‘insane’ than the world of the patients. This asks the question what is it to be insane and how has the right to brand anyone else as being insane and where the line is drawn between sanity and insanity.

Forman does this again later in the film when the TV is on it is playing the news and the stories are about the Berlin wall and bombings. Stories which all seem to be in their own way rather crazy. This further illustrates his point of how are the patients in a worse mental state than these people who are making it on to the news. Much of the shots, sets, costumes and facial expressions have a symbolic meaning. Throughout the film nurse Ratchet is shot with her white hat on, I feel that this is not just a hat but also represents her status and separation from the other workers.

It is linked with her so much that the men almost fear the hat as much as they fear her. So when the patients have the party the hat is glowing and stand out it is also representative of at that time they are no longer in fear, or worried about her. Later in the scene you see the hat on the floor cover in dirt, I feel this represents a victory for the men over nurse ratchet. Nurse ratchet’s hair style is also symbolic in the film as it appears to be in the shape of two horns which are commonly linked to the devil which shows what her character is like.

Lighting is also used to show meanings in the film. The fist shot of nurse ratchet if with a red light behind her; this is done deliberately as the colour red usually represents danger. Also when she is most angry after the party there is a red light behind her, which adds to the anger of the scene and shows her to be dangerous. Forman also uses enigmatic shots to engage the audience at times during the film. The first shot of the morning after the party is of an open window. This leads the audience to think weather of not Macmurphy has left or not.

Another enigmatic shot used in the film is where there is an extreme close up of a table and a card game taking place. This shot leads to audience to ask what the surface is and later who is playing cards. The purpose of these shots is to engage the audience, build up tension and make them think of all the possible outcomes before revealing what has actually happened. A further way in which Forman uses shots to communicate meanings is when the men go on the fishing trip. One of the shots used in this scene is a map shot of the boat surrounded by water; this shot is representative of the men’s freedom at the time.

When they are leaving the harbour there is a man fishing, he is also there when they return. I feel he has been included to show that whilst they have been gone there has been no affect to the ‘rest of the world’. Forman also uses lighting in this scene to create meanings. When the men leave the harbour is it sunny as non-diagetic holiday music playing to show the mood of the men. But when they return it is dark this suggests that something bad is going to happen. One of the main messages communicate through the film is the treatment of the patients. The audience gets to see how nurse ratchet treats them.

And the effect is has on their recover. But the also get to see how Macmurphy and Candice treats them and the effect that has on their recovery. The audience can see Macmurphy and Candice treating them as normally as they would anyone else helps them more than any of the ‘treatments’ which nurse ratchet provides. When they go fishing Macmurphy gives them all jobs, responsibility and allows the to handle everything. The result of this is that they work together as a team and have a good time. Also in this scene the men do not seem to be suffering from any mental problems.