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THE ASYLUM

Germany, 1978 (MIFF 1979)

Director: Hans-Rudiger Minow

In 1975 articles appeared in the American and German press about psychiatrists who disguised themselves as patients to enter mental institutions in California and Illinois, to uncover evidence that some committed schizophrenic patients were, in fact, sane and healthy, but medically mistreated by doctors and attendants.

Director Hans-Rudiger Minow, who specialises in fully researched documentaries of a socio-political nature made a fiction-documentary based on the experiences of the American psychiatrists reported in the press.

The Asylum presents several factual scenes of the treatment of schizophrenics in mental asylums. The story focuses on a young psychologist, Anna Theyn, who commits herself to an asylum under a false name. The head of the clinic, Dr Reinecke, believes that psychiatric illnesses are hereditary, his assistant Dr Bongartz, experiments with alcoholics.

When Anna starts a diary, noting her observations, the patients soon begin to suspect that she may be a disguised journalist, but the head physician thinks she is ill, suffering from "writing mania'.

After seeing a patient being injected with a drug to induce an epileptic fit Anna begins to fee! threatened, and when her parents come to visit her, she decides to leave. But the parents believe the doctors and refuse to take her with them. Anna is drugged and placed in an isolation cell.

When an anonymous telephone call alerts Dr Reinecke that malingerers are trying to expose the management of the clinic he feverishly sets out to track down the pseudo-patients.

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