Advertisers have long admitted to using subliminal imaging in the media to persuade consumers to shop and purchase. Hidden enticements, backward masking – added to the near-constant barrage of advertising and marketing. Commercials choke the airwaves, forcing networks to shave minutes off every program in order to fulfill the needs of the marketing machine. In “Revolution No. 9”, Jackson (Michael Risley) understands that America is under attack by corporate media. And because he knows this, he finds himself singled out – particularly by a product called “Rev. 9”. With this knowledge, he seeks out the creator of the commercial, determined to put an end to the torment.
“Revolution No. 9” is one of the most chilling portrayals of schizophrenia ever produced. It’s what the self-important and tedious A Beautiful Mind should have been. The viewer gets to watch Jackson’s gradual mental disintegration from every-day stressed out joe to a frightened, aggressive and unpredictable patient lost in the system. It’s frightening because it’s played straight. There are no red herrings played by Ed Harris – the audience are in the dark as much as those around Jackson who love him. Schizophrenia is not eye twitching and overly mannered tics; insanity cannot be cured by love and understanding. Mental disease is frightening, frustrating and completely unpredictable. McCann understands this and “Revolution #9” is the result.
Jackson’s biggest supporter is his fiancée (Shelly) who finds her own life falling apart as she attempts to get Jackson much-needed treatment. She battles an uncaring mental health care system and indifferent psychiatrists who continually allow Jackson to fall through the cracks. The ending is inevitable and ambiguous at the same time.
The true tragedy of schizophrenia is that both the patient and his loved ones are tortured by the disease. At best, the schizophrenic will find himself medicated and “reintegrated” back into society, but he’ll never be cured of the fantasies that have become his realities. Meanwhile, those around him struggle to put their own lives back together.
Director McCann (“Nowhere Man”) has crafted a frightening and mature movie here, without a single bad performance in the mix. Risley is superb and sympathetic, even when barely containing his frustration and rage. Shelly is heartbreaking and Gray playing pretentious photographer “Scooter McCrae” (the “Shatter Dead” director was originally slated to play this role but was vetoed by the producers at the last moment) is appropriately befuddled without ever succumbing to the lures of comic relief. Everyone involved should be commended. If there is any justice, Hollywood will notice McCann’s upcoming “Nowhere Man” and give this man the budget he deserves for his next production.
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