From the classic atmospheres of the 1950s in the United States, a new series by Netflix peeps out: Ratched, based on the famous novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
It was 1947 when nurse Mildred Ratched arrived at the mental hospital run by Dr. Hanover. She is hired and proves to be well prepared and interested in all those innovative techniques that the doctor tries to experiment to cure the human mind. But there is a specific reason that led her to go right there, to California. Past traumas haunt her, tied to a new guest at the clinic.
The character of Nurse Ratched was inspired by the novel written by Ken Kesey, published in the United States in 1962, the period of the civil rights movement and the years when great changes were taking place in America in the field of psychology and psychiatry.
There were many criticisms of the traditional methods of treating mental illnesses, and in his novel, the author expresses the feeling of distrust towards these cruel techniques through his characters. But if in the book the nurse Mildred Ratched takes on the tyrannous and treacherous features typical of an antagonist, within the show we learn to sympathize with her, in a new vision of “merciful angel”.
Our nurse arrives in California on the notes of a film noir background, which recalls one of the great cinematographic masters of those years, Hitchcock. Her character appears extremely confident, determined to achieve her goals.
The structure of the psychiatric hospital exudes a feeling of profound aseptic, with infinite corridors, such as in the Shining movie, of light and cold colors. Everything seems in perfect order and “polished” in that strangely frightening way that seems to require sanity, the one that patients in the facility lack so much.
First characters show a disturbing Agatha Christie nature, all very unique or with something to hide. The poor burnt face of the nurse Huck Finnigan, a war veteran; the subtle control of Dr. Hanover, behind whom he hides his fears; the rude severity of Nurse Bucket; the desire for freedom latent at the bottom of Dolly‘s dark pupils.
Within the series, we see the medical body essay with some of the most atrocious techniques once used in psychiatric hospitals: the experimentation of frontal and transorbital lobotomy; attempts with “state-of-the-art” methods such as boiling water and ice water cycles.
As the story unfolds, it’s easy to see how Mildred and Edmund are related. The past seems to keep them united in a trap of love and hate. The debt pushes Nurse Ratched to go all out with him.
Looking more closely at the psyche of Edmund’s character we find a murderous criminal, who somehow retains a sense of right and wrong. He has his way of seeing reality and considers betrayal as the vilest act. He is not crazy, but in his unpredictability, you can feel a streak of madness, just as behind Mildred’s disciplined calm you can feel danger.
I liked this show very much. It is a small step within the psychiatric landscape of the 1950s. I admired the wealth of detail in the construction of the scenes, the accuracy with which they represented the historical period. It has the same twisted charm as American Horror Story, albeit with a more noir streak. Sarah Paulson once again proved to be an excellent actress, as did the entire cast. I recommend it to those who are curious to delve into the human mind and to all fans of the thriller genre.
Conclusion of the first season (Spoiler alert!)
In the final episode of the season, the unpredictability of Charlotte Wells’ multiple personalities shows itself in full force. With the trauma of killing Dr. Hanover, she now feels that she is the doctor herself and so breaks into the hospital.
The death of good Huck has taken me by surprise; he was a character I appreciated. I found interesting Edmund’s representation of the man sentenced to death. His fear returns to make him human, in his empathy towards the animals of the stable you can see the child he had been, no longer a killer monster but a human being with feelings and fears, who trembles in front of the fatality of death.
So I wonder, do we become monsters when we decide on the life and death of another human being? Crime is perhaps not enough to justify a death sentence, once carried out with the electric chair, torture that took away any kind of dignity and left the condemned dying for even 17 very long seconds.
The episode ends with the still open clash between Mildred and Edmund. And the battlefield? The second season, already confirmed by Netflix.