Threads of Belonging

2003 | 01:30:00 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | Video

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Health, Language, Mental Landscape, Performance, Psychoanalysis

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Threads of Belonging depicts the daily life of Layton House, a fictional therapeutic community, where doctors live with their schizophrenic patients. The characters and events of Layton House were drawn from writings of the anti-psychiatry movement, whose most famous proponent was R.D. Laing. In this film we see experimental therapies, power struggles, and the individual arcs of mental illness converge, as a community struggles to understand itself and determine its destiny.

Threads of Belonging was made out of an interest in the alternatives to institutionalization offered by the therapeutic community. I also felt that the idealism and politicization of madness spawned by R.D. Laing and his circle were due for reconsideration. The film was shot in a documentary style with digital video, and combines staged reenactment (in this case, based on case histories) with improvisation. Both cast and crew lived together in the house where we filmed, and so the dynamics of a real community came to bear on the fictional one of Layton House. It is one of the film's strategies to foreground the troubled relationship between the way actors perform" madness and the way real insanity can itself resemble a performance. Also, there is an inherent sadness in the suffering of the patients and the failed idealism of this kind of intentional living. In preparation for the production of Threads of Belonging, "patients" were given case histories and background writing, and paired with their "doctors" to develop their roles. Very few scenes were scripted. The film was both produced and acted by local artists and filmmakers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thus Threads of Belonging is also an homage to the thriving, resilient community that I have found here.

--Jennifer Montgomery

Premiere

Union Theater
Milwaukee, WI
2003