People Say I'm Crazy

Not just a documentary about madness, this illuminating film by John Cadigan and his older sister, Katie, is something more intimate and more harrowing: It's a personal video journal of one man's daily battle with one of the most devastating forms of mental illness. In high school, John Cadigan was good-looking, athletic, popular and artistically inclined;...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Not just a documentary about madness, this illuminating film by John Cadigan and his older sister, Katie, is something more intimate and more harrowing: It's a personal video journal of one man's daily battle with one of the most devastating forms of mental illness. In high school, John Cadigan was good-looking, athletic, popular and artistically inclined; he later studied painting and printmaking at Pittsburgh's prestigious Carnegie-Mellon University. Then, during his senior year, 21-year-old John had his first psychotic episode. He thought he was being followed and that his television was sending him personal messages. Completely immobilized, unable to blink or even swallow, John was hospitalized for two weeks and diagnosed as suffering from depression with psychotic features. His diagnosis was subsequently upgraded to something even more serious: schizoaffective disorder. John left school and moved in with Katie and her husband; Katie, an aspiring filmmaker, began filming his ordeal as doctors used a nightmare regimen of electroconvulsive therapy in an attempt to stave off what they feared was treatment-resistant schizophrenia. Unable to read or reason, John paced, downed endless cups of coffee and drank heavily. He also began working again, transferring the images that crowded his head into woodcuts. There were frogs in his stomach. His fingers were falling off. People were sending him signals. Heavier by 150 pounds, a side effect of medication, John eventually moved into a residence in the San Francisco Bay area. There, at the age of 27, John took the camera into his own hands and began recording his day-to-day life as he weathered the ups and downs of his illness with various degrees of success. He works in his studio, frantically whistling Wagner's "The Ride of Valkyries" as he carves intricate swirls into wood; he mounts his first show; he suffers a terrifying relapse; and, ultimately, finds the courage to strike out on his own. Rarely has mental illness been depicted so subjectively and seemed so immediate: John's daily struggle to determine what's real and what isn't becomes as palpable as it is poignant. It's also a touching testament to the love and dedication of John's family — his brave mother, who admits that every day is an ordeal; his cheerful younger sister, Ann, whom John obviously adores; his older brother and close friend, Steven; and Katie, who often bears the brunt of John's paranoia — and of his friends, who support each other while battling their own demons.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Not just a documentary about madness, this illuminating film by John Cadigan and his older sister, Katie, is something more intimate and more harrowing: It's a personal video journal of one man's daily battle with one of the most devastating forms of menta… (more)

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