The Voices, dir. Marjane Satrapi (2014)
In Marjane Satrapi’s fourth directorial feature, she imbues this deeply disturbed black comedy surrounding a man living with schizophrenia (played by Ryan Reynolds) with her signature comic visual style and stark visual palette. While it deals with a heavy character background of mental breakdown and abuse, its humour derives from a parody of language and filmic conventions, rather than the serious subject itself.
The eponymous voices are Ryan Reynolds himself, who voices the psychotic manifestations of Jerry Hickfang, an outwardly cheery, if not amiable average joe. His cat and his dog become his guiding subconscious after a date gone awry that ends with his workplace crush beheaded and living in animated fashion (as part of a delusion of course) in his fridge. Glimpses of his turbulent childhood living with a mentally ill mother, while being ill himself, flesh out the damaging assault by his father, and his alienation within his own family. These moments are tense and frightening—a tonal departure—but nevertheless significant in building a sympathetic character whose violence is necessarily born out of his uncontrollable mind.
Satrapi also plays very well with the concept of perception—portraying subjective (through Jerry’s eyes) and objective settings, and perhaps even subjective and objective personalities. Although, the story perpetuates a harmful stereotype of violent behaviour among those who live with mental disorders (which is simply untrue), he is not absolved of asking philosophical questions about his existence; his tortured existence which has made him unwillingly violent. By the end, with a winning musical number, Jerry is seen as a product of a society that is still reluctant and unsure of how to speak about mental illness. And the reverberations of this means lives suffer, though not nearly in such a zany and redeeming manner as The Voices.
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