Milos Forman shoots One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975. It is the first film produced by Michael Douglas.
Portrait of a film: In order to escape prison, a delinquent (Jack Nicholson) manages to be committed to a psychiatric hospital. There he discovers a prison-like environment over which rules the head nurse (Louise Fletcher). Gradually, he rebels against her authority, leading along his companions. First punished with a session of ECT, he is eventually lobotomized after trying to strangle the nurse. His friend, a giant Indian, prefers to kill him rather than have him live as a vegetable and then escapes.
Portrait of an era: based on a cult novel of American counter-culture, the film reflects the anti-authoritarian climate of the 70s in the Western world. School, army, prison and hospital are all accused of being instruments of social control. At the same time, in the USSR, the Soviet power imprisons political dissidents in mental asylums. Filmed in a real psychiatric hospital in Salem (Oregon), with the participation of its director, personnel and dozens of patients serving as extras, the shoot itself has been an experience akin to the utopias of the time.
Portrait of a Filmmaker: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the second American feature film made by Milos Forman. The 43-year-old Czech director was then living in the United States where he had filmed Taking off in 1971. His first three films, including Loves of a Blonde, had made him the leader of the Czech cinema and a nemesis of the Communist bureaucracy. A worldwide success, One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest won five Oscars in 1976, a performance that only Frank Capra had accomplished before Milos Forman.