Hot Docs

Corrupted Review: Waves of Chaos

Hot Docs 2022

3 mins read

(Chile, 15 min.)
Director: Juan Cfuentes Mera
Programme: Made in Chile


A burgeoning filmmaker with aspirations to experiment and take on volatile subject matter, Juan Cifuentes Mera’s Corrupted is a harrowing probe into mental breakdown. The film’s protagonist Andrea is based on real people and their torments.

Cifuentes Mera’s short film plays out in nonstop fragments of consciousness, composing, decomposing, and recomposing in Andrea’s hectic mind. She’s driving, singing happily and popping out a beat on the steering wheel. Then she’s panicking staring at rainy night traffic through her windshield. It’s a moment of total crisis. She has no idea where she is, she tells her father in voice over. Animated scratch lines on faces and a soundtrack bristling with static and noise crank up the anguish.

In contrast, jiggly VHS footage, sometimes manipulated, suggest lost moments of happiness. Sea, surf, a little girl and her mother. The video, which looks like anybody’s home movies gets emotional meaning from Andrea’s voice-over longings and statements of pain. “Every day, I feel more lonely and confused,” she says.

Beyond being a film, that depicts mental dislocation, Corrupted implies critique of electroconvulsive therapy. Andrea, has been treated with ECT for her disorders, successfully according to a doctor in the narrative. She and the film don’t agree with the assessment. Among other plagues, Andrea is tormented by disorienting memory loss.

Even supporters of ECT agree that at least some level of memory loss can be brought on by the treatment, and in rare cases, it can be total. Corrupted is a reminder of how way back in the day, ECT, deployed in many psychiatric facilities, was widely  considered slightly more civilized than the rack in a Medieval Torture Chamber. Jack Nicholson’s ordeal in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and the horrors in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor typified perceptions of a treatment designed to relieve ailments, including paralyzing depression.

Today’s specialists consider ECT a perfectly viable treatment when appropriate, properly administered, and certainly not used as a threat. While plunging the viewer into Andrea’s mental dislocation, Cfuentes Mera’s film seems to question current acceptance of a once very controversial treatment.

Corrupted screened at Hot Docs 2022.

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