Remember when I had an idea to make a TV show (equal parts Knick and Mad Men) about RD Laing’s Kinsley Hall? No? I know someone has a record of this somewhere. Although I guess it doesn’t matter now, because screenwriter-director Robert Mullan has beaten me to the punch with his new movie Mad to Be Normal. From The Guardian‘s (much maligned) Peter Bradshaw:
David Tennant is on pugnacious, mercurial and beady-eyed form in this very interesting and absorbing film. It’s one of his best performances. He plays the psychiatrist RD Laing, who became a 60s counterculture hero for challenging what he saw as the profession’s heartless prison-hospital ethos of tranquillisers and electroconvulsive shock treatment. Instead, Laing proposed a holistic treatment without drugs (although medically licensed LSD was acceptable), using group therapy and communal healing. He set up a refuge at Kingsley Hall in east London, that was regarded suspiciously as something like a Bedlam cult.
Hard-drinking, hard-smoking Laing laughs and cries along with his patients – who adore him – and angrily tells interviewers about the people “out to get” him. Elisabeth Moss plays Laing’s (composite-fictional) partner Angie, and Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon are excellent as his patients: old men who in a later era might be overlooked as care-in-the-community homeless. The screenplay by Robert Mullan and Tracy Moreton does not take a conventional biopic line but instead shows scenes from a life, with influences from Beckett, BS Johnson and perhaps David Cronenberg’s Spider in its images of broken things being put back together. Now I’d like see Mullan direct a biopic of Laing’s French counterpart, the philosopher and critic Michel Foucault. Perhaps Cédric Kahn could shave his head for the part.