One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
"People like Randle Patrick McMurphy are foregone conclusions. You gather together at random any twelve men, and one of them will eventually surface as the group's Randle Patrick McMurphy, the organizer, the spokesman, the leading hell-raiser and free spirit, the man who accepts nothing at face value and who likes to shake up the system, sometimes just because it's there. The quality of Randle Patrick McMurphy depends entirely on the intensity of his opposition…..
"When we first meet Randle, he has served two months of his six-month sentence and has managed to get himself transferred to the state mental hospital for psychiatric observation, figuring that life in the loony bin would be easier than on the prison farm. It's the beginning of the end for Randle, but the ferocity of the system imposes on him a kind of crazy grandeur…..
"…the other patients in the ward, though suffering from all sorts of psychoses, are never patronized as freaks but are immediately identifiable as variations on ourselves, should we ever go over the edge of what's called sanity" (from Vincent Canby's New York Times review of the film when it opened in 1975).
The film uses the mental hospital as a metaphor for our society in general. Nurse Ratched, as played by Louise Fletcher, is the cold and manipulative representative of oppressive control oriented social forces---religion, work, sex. Randle is the rebel saying no to the oppression.
This battle can be found in numerous works of art---films, poems, novels, paintings, music. Artists encourage us through their art to strike out, to think outside the box of control oriented ideologies, to become more evolved and more original human beings. However, there are consequences! It is nice to be a leader, a hero---but a live one is better than a dead one---if it is you! The challenge is to find a balance of healthy released emotions and moderated control of passions.
When McMurphy makes the bet and tries to pick up the spray station and fails, he says:
"At least I tried!"
This is the defining moment in the film and is mirrored in the final scene when the Chief tries to do the same thing.
Choose your battles carefully, but do not fear to do battle!