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The Lunatics 1986 Film Review:Whose woe is it that social work lacks a social dimension?

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Film Name:癲佬正傳 / 天天星期七 / The Lunatics

Unlike the Hong Kong films of the mid-1980s, which insisted on presenting entertainment for all, Er Dongsheng’s debut film is distinguished by its focus on a special group of people, and is highly regarded as a classic film with a strong humanistic character. From this point of view, Er Dongsheng’s elegance is not only reflected in his chivalrous style of white clothes and snow, but also due to his social concern that naturally flows from his bones, which makes him unique. Accused of only dressing up and pretending to be cool, Er Dongsheng was unhappy with the media’s comments on him, and took it upon himself to make this film, which is quite powerful in both form and content, and which has been met with surprise and admiration.

《The Lunatics》 begins with a mental patient having a seizure in a vegetable market, holding a woman hostage, while the onlookers are either noisy and clamouring or terrified, a kind of cold-eyed outsider’s view of the world, thus dividing the healthy and disabled groups into an insurmountable chasm, and fear, discrimination, avoidance, prying eyes and abandonment have become the mainstream attitude of the society towards the mentally ill, whereas the unrepentant efforts of the social workers have been miserably reduced to the point that they have no choice but to make a great effort. The unrepentant commitment of the social workers is so miserable that they become the mutual help of the disadvantaged group to the other disadvantaged group. As the film reveals the current situation of the mentally ill, the message that a society without care and concern is even more terrifying than a deranged lunatic is revealed. A group of neighbours indiscriminately beat up a patient, and even more horrifying is the pursuit of the patient by sane people who run away.

Another poignant point of the film is the abandonment of society, the abandonment of a sick husband by his wife, the abandonment of a sick son by his mother, the abandonment of clients by individual exhausted social workers, and the abandonment of recovered patients by medical institutions who have been initially cured but are still at risk of relapsing, exposing the heartlessness of the social process, “My mother told me to go to hell! My mother told me to die”, the blood-curdling confession of a patient who attempted suicide, is one of the film’s most ear-piercing lines.

Er Dongsheng is a first-time director, but skilfully tells a serial-rope style of storytelling, with a natural connection between stories, pushing to the climax in an unintentional matter-of-fact language, and a multitude of clips ringing the mosaic, showing us a grandiose picture outlining the existential situation of the social abandonment group.

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