Anomalie [Anomaly] (2018)

Director: Richard Wilhelmer
Writer: Daniel Haingartner, Richard Wilhelmer
Part of: Diagonale
Seen on: 14.3.2018

Anomalie looks at the lines we draw between sane and insane and how blurry it actually is. Following Fritz Joachim Rudert, a homeless man with experiences as a patient in psychiatric wards, to his participation in the German anti-psychiatry movement, the film asks how we as a society decide about the standards and norms that we accept as true – and whether our reaction to deviations from those norms is as it should be.

Anomalie picked a very interesting topic for a documentary and tries to come at it from many angles – too many at times, maybe. Even if I would draw some conclusions differently than the film appears to, I was fascinated from beginning to end.

Watching Anomalie, I got the feeling that the film changed its main question a couple of times in the course of filming. Which is of course perfectly alright. Maybe that’s even necessary that you need to readjust your focus as you learn more about a field. But that also means that you might need to drop some of the early material you gather as it no longer pertains to the question you ask at the end of the process. That second part is what I felt was missing a little in Anomalie, making the film feel a little unfocused.

But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t interesting or didn’t know what it wanted to say. Quite to the contrary, it has a lot to say and gives its subjects, above all Fritz Joachim Rudert, a lot of space to express themselves and their views. And since mentally ill people rarely get a voice in media (or at least one that’s taken seriously), especially when they’re critical of things, that space was much appreciated on my part.

The anti-psychiatry movement has a lot of things to say, and they make a lot of good points. Psychiatry is a very violent field, one that is especially prone to abuse and definitely has a tendency to make decisions for people it has no rights making decisions for. I really see a lot of things worth of (radical) criticism here. But even so, I felt that the film sometimes went a little overboard with its criticism. Psychiatry and psychriatic hospitals do have expertise to help people as well – and not all of mental illness is just a question of a too narrow definition of what is acceptable behavior in our society.

But no matter where you fall on the pro- and anti-psychiatry spectrum, Anomalie gives us a lot of things worth thinking over and discussing.

On a sidenote: Anomalie uses a female narrator which I loved because it’s rare and we could hear it more often. I was less taken by the director’s comment that the female voice we hear is Anomaly herself because it just feeds into the notion of men as the norm and women being the deviation (nevermind any other gender).

Summarizing: Very interesting.

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