James Charney, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, is author of the newly released book, "Madness at the Movies."
Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, the book is based on a college course Charney taught at Yale for over a decade and more recently at the American University of Rome. It is a study of how mental illness has been portrayed in commercial films over the years, focusing on classic films, and also exploring the history of film and film craft.
According to the publisher, the book encourages readers to view films in an entirely new way. “Through films such as Psycho, Taxi Driver, Through a Glass Darkly, Night of the Hunter, A Woman Under the Influence, Ordinary People, and As Good As It Gets, Charney covers an array of disorders, including psychosis, paranoia, psychopathy, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety. He examines how these films work to convey the essence of each illness. He also looks at how each film reflects the understanding of mental illness at the time it was released as well as the culture that shaped that understanding.” Though written for a general audience, the essays are clinically rigorous, meant to entertain as well as inform.
“Charney explains how to observe the behaviors displayed by characters in the films, paying close attention to signs of mental illness,” the publisher states. “He demonstrates that learning to read a film can be as absorbing as watching one.”