360 Screenings: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Riding a massive wave of anticipation, the first show of the second season of 360 Screenings proved to be more immersive, more spontaneous, and even more fun than the previous installments.
The creation of Ned Loach and Robert Gontier, 360 Screenings tease a classic film, letting people engage and interact with actors, props, and sets – attendees are never quite sure what they are going to get when they purchase a ticket. One year after their first event, Ghost, the film series put on three shows over the course of the weekend for their fifth event, looking to follow up productions of Fight Club, 28 Days Later, and Amelie.
On the Thursday prior, the venue was revealed to be Christie Mansion, a Toronto heritage site located on the corner of Queen’s Park and Wellesley Street downtown. Now part of the University of Toronto campus, Christie Mansion is named after Scottish baker William Mells Christie, who worked in Toronto in the mid 19th century, and whose cookies spurred the growth and success of a family company for decades. Christie Brown & Co. became world renown, and this past weekend, Christie’s former home became the site of a screening that effectively used the environment.
The film to be revealed was Milos Forman’s 1975 masterpiece One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Those in attendance, referred to as ‘patients,’ were told to wear white, and were they to be asked to name an idyllic place to visit, they’d answer Canada.
Those instructions help to narrow down the field of classic and cult films from which to choose, but when one entered the venue, the clues were immediate and all around. To the left was a group therapy sessions, in the back were exercises and games, while in the hallway a line formed for guests to receive their medication from the nurse. A chalkboard told patients to see Dr. Spivey if they needed anything
In yet another room, cots were aligned against the wall, and a party seemed to forming, as Christmas was in the air and festive spirit grew. That energy was buoyed too by a pair of lovely young ladies drinking and dancing and trying to get patients all riled up as well.
The ladies were actresses playing the parts of Candy and Rose, as others took on supporting roles of patients, and McMurphy and Chief Bromden wandered the halls. Actors and guests mixed seamlessly, and at times it was hard to tell who had a role to play and who had a ticket.
That of course is a triumph for the event. There was a different element to this iteration however, one that made it more successfully, whether or not it was entirely intentional. That the actors were playing characters who weren’t all there made for all the more random and exciting conversation. They were patients, and they treated the guests as patients, fostering some absurdist fun and endless interaction. Though drama and misery permeate the film, there is a great sense of unbridled enthusiasm and insubordination that runs throughout, and this was captured to great effect.
As the first part of the evening came to a close, with the actors joined together to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,’ the group filed to the back of Christie Mansion to take a seat in the pews of the Church, as the film began to many cheers. If the end of the evening felt deflating, it was only because we have to wait now to see what is to come in the sixth show, as a sense of mystery and hope builds once more, anticipating whatever surprises are in store next time around.