At its centre, it is quite a seductive study of a mental illness, making manic depression vaguely attractive, with its own skewed interior logic. It makes me understand what I'd always thought was a strange quality about crazy people. They're so convinced about their world view that some times we cant help but envy the strength of their conviction.
Anyway, moving on to what is the point of this post, there is a scene in the film that I really liked, in spite of the rough-handed way the rest of the movie played out the implications of the scene.
In it, Mr. Jones and his psychiatrist are talking on the rooftop of the hospital (most real-world psychiatrists will immediately tell you what a stupid and dangerous idea this is) and she's asking him about what sort of dreams he's been having lately, a valid question if she still believes in Freudian dream analysis. And now Mr. Jones does something really wild, he gets up from his chair and climbs to the ledge of the rooftop in one swift motion eliciting a squawk from his psychiatrist who finally sees the potential folly of this particular setting.
He spreads his arms out while she begs him to climb back down and he says, "I dream about flying!" She continues her entreaty while he surveys the view and he asks her, "What do you dream about?" She replies that she doesnt remember her dreams but she used to dream of flying when she was a child.
He smiles and utters the single best line of the movie, "Why do only children have flying dreams?" She stammers that she doesnt know and he asks her if she thinks he'll really fly off this rooftop if he tried. She screams that he will die and he asks her if there's really a difference before climbing down. She slaps him and the movie moves on to their love story but the memory of the goosebump-inducing scene is what lingers beyond the rest of their 'romance'. We wish they'd let us into her mind to see if she understands that she's falling in love with not just the man, but also this disease. That it is his mania that makes him so certain, so charming, so delightfully romantic. That she will never really know her loved one, and that she is ethically compromising herself by becoming so involved with a patient she's trying to help.
Regardless, the question Mr. Jones throws at us is important. Why do we dream of flying as children and stop when we grow up? Is it becoz we know that it is one of those things beyond the realm of possibility unless we have an airplane or a handglider? Or do we hang on to the dream by transmuting it into a realistic dream of becoming aeroplane pilots?
Does this also happen with other childhood dreams? Maybe we simply put them aside when we realize they wont really ever come true.
Is this why children aspire to become astronauts while adults put up with the drollest of jobs, becoz you have to, you know, 'grow up and get real'?
When we're young, we have the future, bright and whole, ahead of us. We believe we have endless potential to realize all the million possibilities we've told ourselves our lives will segue into.
We think we're brilliant and wonderful and that someday we'll definitely win an Oscar or a Nobel or something really, really important will happen for us.
But a lot of times, as we grow older, the realm of possibilities shrinks and aspirations shrivel up and die. And that is a real pity.
I think Mr. Jones senses that better than a lot of people becoz he is cursed with the ability and the sense to feel both the expansive high of optimistic hope and the suffocating cynical vise of desperation. That is why he alternates between living life as if he will die any minute before proceeding to attempt to die the next minute. We are fortunate that we do not share his fate, but atleast we can learn a lesson from it.