Mental Illness Metaphor: It Follows


(Spoiler Free)

I finally watched David Robert Mitchell’s film It Follows, which is now available to rent.  I had been wanting to see it for a while since I heard it was actually a good horror movie, which is rare these days (if you’re looking for another recent good one, check out The Babadook; it’s on Netflix).

I enjoyed the film.  The cinematography was wonderful.  It has that old-school horror movie feel and with complex shots.  There were beautiful tracking shots, wide shots, and impressive 360 shots.

The cinematography lends itself to feelings of both claustrophobia (the fear of enclosed spaces or being trapped) and agoraphobia (which can also be fear of enclosed spaces, but is commonly thought of as fear of being outside).  Those two fears together is an old joke, but is also a very real comorbidity for many people.

This led me to interpret the film as metaphor for mental illness (as opposed to a super obvious metaphor of the dangers of sex).  The main character Jay feels trapped within her own home.  And trapped when she is at school and when she is in her car.  She is also hyper-vigilant when outside.  This is where the expansive wide shots come in.  We can see an entire neighborhood or an entire forest or beach front, but we know that anywhere out there can be danger.  The camera also follows Jay through narrow hallways and tunnels, keeping the audience confined with her with little room to escape.

Jay can also see something that no one else can see.  This can obviously also be applied to a mental illness understanding of the film.  If someone is ill and hallucinating it can be very real to them.  It can also be incredibly difficult to convince other people that there is a problem.

The comforting aspect of this story is that Jay’s friends and sister come to accept what she is saying and try to help.  This is acceptance is still a struggle for the millions of people suffering from mental illness.  They do not have this strong support system.  Having friends and family accept a mentally ill person can be life changing for that individual.  But stigma still surrounds mental illness.  A lot of people do not understand what it means to suffer in your mind (while anyone who has ever been injured or been sick understands what it means to suffer in the body).  Maybe a view of this movie could be beneficial.  The tension and fear that carries the story along is how it feels to suffer from an anxiety disorder.  I believe education is key to understanding mental illness and breaking the social stigma that surrounds it.

(I recommend this film.  And it’s a bonus that it quotes T.S. Eliot and Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.)


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