by David Norris 2/6/19
This film is not the Steven King movie based on one of his novels. This is a horror story of another kind. I would call it a cautionary tale about a victim of ideological possession. This movie caught me completely off-guard.
I found out about it while researching a movement called Transactional Analysis, a psychological therapeutic modality introduced in the United States during the 1960s. I had assumed that this movie might be a feel-good story about people that were helped by T.A., or perhaps an expose on those it harmed. Neither was the focus of this film.
The story is about Christine Chubbuck, a single woman who works in a local television newsroom. She is nearing thirty and her career seems to have stalled. She wants to do positive human interest stories, but the big boss, comcerned about his failing station, wants to focus on crime, murder, and sensationalism…”If it bleeds, it leads,” was his motto.
On looking into her personal history, I discovered that she attended an elite private girls high school in a neighboring community to my own, and upon graduation went on to attend three different liberal arts colleges, each one further and further away from her home in Ohio.
Christine had difficulty relating to men. She had difficulty making female friends too. Her focus seemed to always be about her work.
Christine was funny, creative, and great with kids. When not at the television station she would volunteer at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital, giving puppet shows to children with intellectual disabilities.
We don’t get to know Christine Chubbuck very well, in spite of an excellent performance by Rebecca Hall. Clearly she is depressed, lonely, and suffers from some troubling events in her past. She also suffers from pains in her abdomen which she keeps dismissing as “just stress.”
When she finally goes to a doctor it is discovered that she has a tumor on one of her ovaries, and that she will have to have the ovary removed, which could reduce her chances of conceiving a child in the future.
Her father is never mentioned in the story. Christine now lives with her mother, and accuses her of neglect by filling her head with “hippie bullshit” and not helping her to understand how the world works. Christine’s bedroom looks like that of a ten year-old girl’s.
She has a crush on the station’s anchorman, but he views her as a colleague, possibly as a friend. At one point he tries to help her by introducing her to the Trans-actional Analysis group that he attends. During an exercise called “yes, but,” Christine reveals that she has always dreamed of being married, and having children, with a career as a third place finisher.
The movie hints at mental illness as the cause for what befell this woman, but never really says what it was.
Personally, I look for patterns in stories, and I trust what my gut tells me about the available information. I know what I think possessed her. Some may call it a mental illness, others would call it an ideology.
There is one remaining fact however that sealed my suspicions about the nature of her “illness.” This was the way the director shot the final scene, which to me indicated that he too had come to a particular conclusion about the fate of this poor woman.
Viewers will have to decide for themselves what the truth may be. • (288 views)