A Painful Journey to Insanity
Release Date: December 14, 2001
Runtime: 85 minutes
Distributor: Miramax/Disney/Buena Vista
Director: Richard Eyre
Producer: Robert Fox & Scott Rudin
Writer: Richard Eyre & Charles Wood
Address Comments To:Bob & Harvey Weinstein
375 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
The movie opens with Dame Iris Murdoch philosophizing to a distinguished group of women on the importance of education. She states, “Education does not make us happy, but it is the means by which we see we are happy… and free. There is only one freedom that is of any importance, and that is the freedom of the mind.” A flashback is seen, with the young Iris pontificating to a similar group. She says, “The quest for happiness is in us all, and the power for happiness is in us all.”
Iris believes that “Every human soul has seen, even before birth, such things as justice and temperance, and we are moved toward the good by memory of these things.”
The young Iris adds (in flashback), “Between two evils, always choose the one you haven’t tried before.”
The story unfolds about how Iris (the old one) is writing a book about philosophy. Her previous works had been highly successful, but with her final book she is struggling mentally. She completely botches a television interview about her book. Her husband takes excellent care of her and reassures her, but it appears from the doctors that her brain is beyond help or hope. Iris continues to try to write, remembering the scenes of her youth.
She remembers how she married John Bayley, how he could never catch up to her on their bike rides, how she never let him see her novels, how she failed to tell him of all her mysterious love affairs, including the lesbian ones. In short, John had lived his life on the outside of Iris’s heart, but now it is too late.
As Iris slips further into her own dark world of insanity, she and John struggle through the memories and the challenges of love and commitment to the end.
IRIS is an incredibly dull, slow, disturbing film that highlights the darkness of those who have relied on false gods. When the mind is the god, there is, indeed, utter darkness when that fails. John even says, “We’re lost . . . We’re so lost, and I hate you! All your friends are gone, and I’ve got you. I don’t even want you. I’ve never known anything about you, and now I don’t care.”
The protagonist is not likable, but a self-focused woman who has shut out her husband from her heart and only used him as a provider and caretaker. I suppose that’s a good lesson for how people sometimes treat God and our spouses, but beyond that mild challenge, there is nothing compelling here. There are numerous, unnecessary sex and nudity scenes, and I found myself looking at my watch numerous times, thinking, “I just don’t care.” One has to care in these things . . .
Actually, the really disturbing thing about this movie was that it showed how increasingly messy Iris’s house got as she lost her sanity. At one point, I was thinking that the house looked pretty much like mine when I am in a big writing project! What does that say?!
In essence, avoid this movie. The only true life and light in our lives comes from a reborn spirit, not a good, philosophical mind. The arm of flesh will always fail, and this movie portrays the bitter end of those whose misguided ways have run their course.
Based on the life of acclaimed novelist Iris Murdoch, IRIS is dark and dreary, with numerous and unnecessary sexual escapades including nudity. Also, the protagonist is too heady and self-focused to be likable. It does portray the dark end of a humanist reliance on the mind, rather than the renewal of the spirit through a personal, faithful relationship with Jesus Christ.