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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

From Academic Kids

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One_Flew_Over_the_Cuckoo's_Nest_poster.jpg
Film poster for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a novel by Ken Kesey first published in 1962. The 1975 film version of the same name was directed by Milo Forman.

Randle Patrick McMurphy, a serial petty criminal who has been sentenced to a fairly short prison term, decides to have himself declared insane so he'll be transferred to a mental institution, where he expects to serve the rest of his time in (comparative) comfort and luxury.

McMurphy's ward in the mental institution is run by an unyielding tyrant, Nurse Ratched, who has cowed the patients—who are mostly there by choice—into dejected institutionalised submission.

McMurphy becomes ensnared in a number of power-games with Nurse Ratched for the hearts and minds of the inmates. All the time, however, the question is in the mind as to just how sane any of the players in this actually are. Eventually McMurphy is lobotomized after he explodes into a violent rage when one of Nurse Ratched's psychological power games results in the death of a patient.

Kesey's novel is in the form of a first-person narrative by Chief Bromden, a Native American and one of McMurphy's fellow patients. The novel raises a number of interesting questions about the nature of the state and power structures and could be interpreted on a number of allegorical levels. Bromden refers to the negative forces of the world collectively as the "Combine," the very force which tries to suppress people like McMurphy. The film is much less introspective and focuses mostly on the conflict between McMurphy and Ratched.

The film was widely acclaimed and won Academy Awards for Best Actor for Jack Nicholson (who played McMurphy), Best Actress for Louise Fletcher (who played Nurse Ratched), Best Direction for Milo Forman, as well as Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It ranked number 20 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 greatest American films, Nurse Ratched was ranked number 5 on the Institute's list of 50 Greatest Villains, and the film consistently ranks in the top 15 on the Internet Movie Database. However, some mental health advocates have criticized the film for having unrealistic portrayals of mental hospitals and mental illness. Kesey himself also did not hide his dislike of the film, particularly the casting of Nicholson as McMurphy.

The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

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