This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
codyjensen’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
In One flew over the cuckoos nest we’re introduced into the world of the ward as music is played, a signal for the patient’s medication time. This classically conditions the patients, similar to the Pavlov’s Dog experiment in which a repeated number of paired stimuli (the music) leads to a response (taking meds). Overtly, the theme of societal order and normalcy within the ward is established.
Then we’re introduced to Nicholson’s character, Randle: the epitome of individualism in the midst of established order. As he learns new things about the ward and the members that reside in it, others start to be influenced by his originality. For example, the basketball scene where he “helps” Chief, wanting to watch the World Series and voting on it democratically, only to be shut down by the established order herself, Nurse Ratched. Her hair even looked like horns, almost like the horns of the devil in this place called Hell. Randle even takes it as far as taking the other members on a little field trip in which many of the members seem to feel like they are experiencing a new form of therapy: living.
Other scenes of individualism vs establishment included: making up the World Series on tv, winks at Chief after being normal after the first shock therapy, and throwing a party by persuading the guard.
It’s notable how the guard wanted a little taste of freedom and spontaneity, but when it got too much to handle he wanted to stop it. I think this shows how people strive to be different with oneself or with a small group, but compared to society they often conform to the norm.
Toward the end we see a glimpse of the patients being cured the morning after the party. Billy even seemed to be cured of his stuttering before the devil reminded him of his mother, past trauma. I think choice and a patient’s opinion on their therapy is the best possible start toward a cure.
Randle even tries to kill Nurse Ratched, the epitome of the establishment, but as people often do in the world, he fails. He is then indoctrinated into the life of order and normalcy.
And then Chief, this beautiful kind soul, says he will take Randle with him, indicating that he will take on his spirit of individualism. Kills him, cuz who would want to live like that, and escapes by lifting the water tank as water spills everywhere. A symbol of life, as Chief restarts his life.