A Better Tomorrow – Art and mental health.
Those who may have read my previous articles for SNACK will have noticed a person with an unfettered love of film and music. Without either is a world I cannot imagine. With the world’s situation as it is now, they are more important than ever. The beautiful, imaginary universes they create have spoken to me, helped me so deeply throughout my life. With this article I want to communicate their importance, especially to those who are mentally vulnerable, which to some extent, we all are.
Around 15 years ago I had a psychotic episode. I was sectioned in a mental hospital for a month. I was put on anti-psychotic medication. Two years later I had another one, and was diagnosed schizophrenic. Since then it’s been a rocky road, now I think of it as part of the journey; an adventure with all of the emotions and feelings we can experience, that is life.
Throughout this time I have been delusional, weak, incapacitated. I have also been full of joy, love and strength. To believe that we must hide behind a mask of supposed strength, that ‘everything is fine’ is a world we must leave behind. And the current situation is forcing this to happen.
Film is full of stories in which extreme situations cause individuals to do extreme things; they discover their worth through hardship, they suffer to come into the light. Music is full of stories of individuals experiencing heartbreak, existential crises, striving to find hope through a connection with others. These are the worlds we must inhabit now, and really feel them, because this isn’t a movie or the story of a song; this is real.
Since I was a small child the universe movies can create has enraptured me, beyond the idea of escape. It’s transcendence. When I fully focus my attention I go beyond this consciousness we all know, I am somewhere close to the divine.
Only a year ago I re-watched a film that has been so important to me since the age of 15, aptly titled ‘A Better Tomorrow’. My biggest passion in life is Hong Kong movies, having been introduced to them through the great film icon, Bruce Lee. I graduated to Jackie Chan and other incredible Kung Fu film-makers. These movies are pure unadulterated entertainment. Then I watched ‘A Better Tomorrow’, genius director John Woo’s entrance into the gangster action genre. It spoke to something deep within me that at the time I couldn’t explain. When I rewatched it this time, I understood.
Every single frame is charged with meaning, emotion, style and authenticity. The film is to me the deepest action movie ever made, and means many things to many people. For me the meaning is clear. All we have in life are our families, our brothers and sisters, in whatever form they take. All we have to do is take a step back, as we are now compelled to. It is crystal clear; human connection knows no borders, and being present, feeling the presence of others, creates nothing but empathy and love. Being in our bodies and not believing we are the voice in our head, creates a purity which allows a release of all the emotions that are trapped.
When I was 17 my mum passed of cancer. One day when I came home from visiting her in the hospital my father had left out an LP, After the Goldrush by Neil Young. I put the needle to the groove and the song ‘Don’t Let it Bring you Down’ unfolded. Every note, every lyric, Young’s high, ghostly voice, spoke to the very core of my being. It was then I knew the power of music. ”Don’t let it bring you down, it’s only castles burning, just find someone who’s turning, and you will come around.”
In this time we must lose ourselves in these worlds, that we as human beings have created to allow us to transcend the moment. We may be confined to our homes, but with them we can find solace, comfort and a reflection of human experience: a connection through shared experience.