Treatment of mental illnesses has never been straightforward. Through prescribed medicines, it keeps the insane mind in control, but only temporarily, until the sanity goes away completely. There is always the question, whether doctors do everything possible to help the patients before releasing them back to society, or it’s just a way of controlling them; because the more patients you get in psychiatric clinics, the more funds will be granted?
“The Mad Women’s Ball” follows Eugénie Cléry (Lou de Laâge), a young woman who has the ability to speak to spirits. But labelled as crazy, she was sent to a neurological clinic in Paris’ Pitié-Salpêtrière overseen by Professor Jean-Martin Charcot (Grégoire Bonnet). When she appears in the clinic, she is forced to go through inhuman treatments, torture and later on prepared for the most ruthless ball, where mad women are taken advantage of.
Set in the 19th century, it’s a powerful story of love, family, friendship and self-sacrifice. Geneviève (Mélanie Laurent), the head nurse of the clinic does her job faithfully. She never questions her superior’s authority nor his atrocious actions towards patients. But when she builds up a relationship with Eugénie Cléry and begins to believe in her gift, Geneviève promises that she will help the young woman escape the prison-like clinic. But each sacrifice comes with a heavy price, but Geneviève will stop at nothing.
Screenplay by Mélanie Laurent and Chris Deslandes based on the novel by Victoria Mas, “The Mad Women’s Ball” serves as a reminder of how far we are willing to go to treat our loved ones with respect and dignity if we find them mentally unstable. The importance of the premise is obvious. The abuse of patients occurring within the walls of the clinic is terrifying, yet nothing is being done to stop it. In fact, it’s being welcomed by the system, because it has the wheel of money that continues to roll. And that’s something relevant not only for the 19th century, even for the 21st too. If we dig deeper, we can easily find places like the one described in the film. Sadly, many more than we expect.