(Comment from movie trailer: “or was it just the 60’s…”)


Was Susanna “just rebellious” or mentally ill. (“Cloud that passed through her life.”)   Did she belong in psychiatric treatment?

          “Just normal people who follow their impulses…” A. Jolie


From book:  This person is (pick one);

1.       on a perilous journey from which we can learn much when her or she returns

2.     possessed by (pick one)

a)     the gods

b)    God (that is, a prophet)

c)     Some bad spirits, demons, or devils

d)     The devil

3.     A witch

4.     Bewitched (variant of 2)

5.     Bad and must be isolated and punished

6.     Ill, and must be isolated and treated by (pick one)

a)     purging and leeches

b)    removing the uterus if the person has one

c)     electric shock to the brain

d)     cold sheets wrapped tight around the body

e)     Thorazine or Stelazine

7.     Ill, and must spend the next seven years talking about it

8.     A victim of society’s low tolerance for deviant behavior

9.     Sane in an insane world

10.  On a perilous  journey from which he or she may never return.


Think for a moment as the film begins: What criteria would you be looking for you to decide either:

          She should be required to go to the hospital, or

          It would be best for her to go, voluntarily


Also, consider this question regarding the other characters (compare & contrast)


Did she belong in the hospital?

She signed herself in; arrived in a cab, rejected the opportunity to run off with boyfriend.  Ultimately, she makes her own decision.

“I tried to kill myself.” Boyfriend… everyone thinks about suicide.  How would he do it?  “I don’t know… I guess I really haven’t thought about it.”  (Difference between thinking about it as abstract exercise and planning it)


2 Questions:  Who should we require to hospitalized/medicated?

                             Who should we allow to be hospitalized/medicated?

                                       Listening to Prozac

                                       Some maintaining dependency, perhaps, rather

 than working for independence

Adolescents often are confused about the difference


Family Systems View

“I just don’t want to end up with [like?]my mother.”


Part of a group; create family within hospital


Explore “family cut-off”; In book, & some deleted scenes, extensive discussion of scapegoating ; Family may need to get stronger to take someone back, to accept the challenge to the whole family system.


Parents often have the power to define children as the problem, even if there are problems on both sides.

          Although it may be unjust, if is still a challenge the patient needs to learn to adapt to, paralleling other authority issues they will face.  It’s not just adapting to the power others have, but adapting to a world which will not always submit to your will, and won’t always meet your expectations.  A person who can’t tolerate that the world doesn’t always operate they way they think it should, will be in constant distress and conflict.


[My observation: time disturbances, such as precognitive dreams, do not seem rare among adolescents.  It becomes a problem when someone because fixated on it instead of learning how to simply “do a reality check” or dismiss it.]


          Her discussion—Borderline Personality Disorder

“20 minute interview with psychiatrist.” (Psychiatrist reported 3 hours)


Commitment papers: “depressed… attempted suicide… patternless of life… promiscuous, not pregnant.  Suicidal” [Copy of papers in book: “needed McLean for 3 yrs.  Profoundly depressed-suicidal.  Increasing patternless of life, promiscuous might kill self or get pregnant.  Former ther. 3 yyrs…-she doesn’t want to return.  RAN AWAY FROM HM 4 MOS AGO.  Living in boarding house in Camb.  Desperate.  ..father Director of Institute for Advanced Studies—Princeton.  Report of psychiatrist 4/27/67…3 hour exam.  Referral based on “: chaotic unplanned life… progressive decompensation and reversal of sleep cycle… severe depression and hopelessness and suicidal ideas… history of suicidal attempts… no therapy and no plan present.  Immersion in fantasy, progressive withdrawal and isolation


(No “Borderline Personality Disorder” in DSM-II (5/68)  in 1969.  “Borderline Psychosis” was a current term, not related to personality disorder.)


Her chart shows “Psychoneurotic depressive reaction; Highly intelligent but in denial of her condition; personality pattern disturbance, resistant, mixed type, R/O undifferentiated schizophrenia.  Established diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder.”




“If you have no secret…. You’re a lifer like me.”  Lisa


Director compares her disorientation with Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse 5.  !!!!!!!


Borderline diagnosis is usually associated with childhood abuse, typically sexual abuse.    This could also be a trauma related to the abusive incident.


Promiscuity: Issue not necessarily frequency of sex or number of partners, but may relate to sense of choice:  Date rape?  Rape? 


 “Sexualized” result of childhood sexual abuse? She had an affair with college professor at about 16 or 17; earlier?  (In book: Watson/Crick wanting to take her away in sports car)


Use of flashback technique in movie (others cut); In book, she emphasizes troubles in experience/accounting for time.



Deleted scenes (First cut over 3 hours long)

          Seeing herself coming home in cab, seeing Lisa

          Seeing outline of hand in shadows on walls;  hallucinating “melting hand” before taking aspirin


“Ruby” burnt into Lisa’s arm.

Vermier painting: “Girl Interrupted at her music.”


Hallucinating blood at meat section


Director had “Wizard of Oz” in mind when structuring movie.


Other characters

“She’s [Lisa] a sociopath…” AJ              








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