THE SNAKE PIT
TOPIC: OVERALL IMPRESSIONS
What emotions did you feel - if any - during this film?
Why do you think it was shot in B/W when color was both available &
What stereotypes about women are both overtly & covertly portrayed
(Virginia, the other inmates & female staff)? Look at both their behaviors
and their relationship to men. (E.g. how does Dr. Kik explain Virginia's
early ambition to become a writer?)
How is the voice-over technique used in this film (there are both disembodied
and embodied voices)?
How are different camera techniques used to portray objective & subjective
reality (e.g., fast panning, closeups, spacial placement of characters
in the frame)?
TOPIC: VIRGINIA - When you watch this film, try to identify with
her & see things as she sees them.
Her diagnosis is paranoid schizophrenia. At the time of this film the
leading theory about schizophrenia was a psychoanalytic one. Psychoanalysis
puts schizophrenia and a disorder resulting from a fixation at the oral
stage & repetition compulsion and includes the concept of the schizophrenogenic
mother - basically rejecting but overtly caring - and the ineffective father.
What symptoms of this diagnosis does she display before going into the
hospital? Use the flashbacks for this.
What symptoms does she display while in the hospital? Which of these are
made worse by thing that happen in the hospital?
From the clues given, try to give an estimate of how long she is there?
How was Virginia similar to & different from Janet Frame in An Angel
at my Table?
How did Virginia's background exemplify the then-current explanation of
the etiology of schizophrenia?
What is determined to be the reason for her breakdown (i.e., what is "really"
wrong with her)?
What does she use as signs she is :'getting better"?
TOPIC: THE INSTITUTION
This was a state-run facility - not a private hospital.
What facts about public mental hospitals at the time were shown in the
film? How did this hospital compare to the one in An Angel at my Table,
in Chattahoochie, in Cuckoo's Nest?
There were six types of treatment shown in this film - all of which were
popular at that time. The book also includes one called "cold packing"
which was not used in the film. What are the 6 shown?
Which method - also common - (you saw it in Cuckoo's nest, in Angel &
in Titicut Follies) was not shown in this film? Why do you think the film
maker left it out?
How realistic is it for a patient in this kind of setting to get so much
M.D. time? Why dd the film maker do it? (It wasn't in the book)
What were your impressions of the different staff members? How were the
characters similar & different from those in the other films you have
TOPIC: PSYCHOANALYTIC THERAPY
What "doctor" stereotypes did you see in the different doctors?
How do you know Dr. "Kik" is a psychoanalyst even without him saying anything
(watch for office details)?
How did Dr. "Kik" gain her confidence?
How did transference - the heart of analysis - display itself?
How realistic did you think the pace of her improvement was?