Altered States - The Eclectic Cinema

The Eclectic Cinema
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Altered States 18
(USA/1980)                         102 minutes
Ken Russell

William Hurt|Blair Brown|Bob Balaban|Charles Haid
This 1980 sci-fi offering from controversial British director Ken Russell is an equally engrossing, horrifying, energetic, eccentric and surreal tale of a socially awkward but brilliant professor, Edward Jessup, played by the late William Hurt, in his film debut. It was adapted from a screenplay, based on his own novel, by three-times Oscar winner Paddy Chayefsky and was partly inspired by John C Lilly's research into sensory deprivation under the influence of psychoactive drugs. In the end, though, Chayevksy disowned the project after creative disputes with Russell.
The  story tells of the professor, whilst conducting research into schizophrenia, stumbling upon a revolutionary technique to regress himself backwards through evolution to a former state of being. He is seduced by the possibility of this unprecedented discovery and puts his own life at risk to explore. This is often cited as Hurt's best work and earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
The film incorporates highly creative fantasy sequences which make it a more surreal, cerebral, experiential watch than perhaps expected. It's not above a good jump scare or two, and does have a visceral edge while also touching on interesting themes like the untapped power of the mind. Russell's confident, inscrutable direction will leave you questioning the reality of what you see, human nature, and the motivation of the professor, who becomes so obsessed with his voyage of discovery that he ignores all his chances of quitting while he's ahead, putting himself and others at risk. Having undeniable parallels with other classics of 80s sci-fi horror, including David Cronenberg's The Fly, Altered States is a crucial stop in the evolution of sci-fi cinema, making it a perfect addition to The Eclectic Cinema's Sci-Fi strand.
20 June 2022 MONDAY 19:30
Playhouse Main Screen
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