by Christine F. Anderson
Christine writes about mental health/mental illness in her column, Forever Different, where she shares from her own experiences as someone who has bipolar disorder. Christine has also started a Facebook support group for those with Bipolar Disorder: www.facebook.com/groups/foreverdifferent.
Touched with Fire: Not your conventional love story.
Carla (Katie Holmes) is a bipolar poet who struggles to remember what she was like before she got sick. Marco (Luke Kirby) is also a bipolar poet, off his meds, who walks around New York City obsessively drawing chalk images of the moon as he talks endlessly about the Apocalypse. When the two find themselves checked into the same mental institution, the stars align and a romance is formed, the attraction being the similarities of their respective psychoses.
Touched with Fire isn’t a movie about the sadness of having a mental illness—in fact, it’s the complete opposite. I think in this instance, as with many other films about mental illness, Hollywood has once again glamorized the disease, leading us to believe it is charismatic and alluring. When in fact, it often times is debilitating, dark and isolating.
Written, directed, edited, and scored, this is an autobiographical depiction of filmmaker Paul Dalio, who is also bipolar. The film is loosely based on the well-known book, Touched with Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison. This is an intense romantic drama which solely exists to prove that this so-called “disorder” isn’t taboo. On the contrary, the director considers this chemical imbalance as a gift to be embraced rather than stigmatized. This film is his debut feature, and is unmistakably the work of someone who looks at his illness and sees validation for the artistic dreams in his life, as well as those of his characters.
Paul Dalio knows what it’s like to be manic, and his camera never lets you forget it. Carla and Marco are trying to use each other for balance, a balance not easily found in a bipolar mind. But what is normal? Holmes and Kirby deliver powerful performances, although it’s hard to shake the feeling that she and Kirby aren’t literally manic or depressed rather than expressing them through art.
When Touched with Fire ends, it shares a list of legendary artists that were said to be bipolar. It’s amazing to see who mental illness has affected and their contributions to our lives; very poignant.
Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles, and watch for more from Christine.