Saturday, December 26, 2015

Miracle on 34th Street

We watched the 1947 version at a film night at church.  I had never seen it.  There are many things of interest - 1940s New York and a scene in Dutch.  That scene - there is a transcript on the IMDB site at the link in the first line - involves a young girl who has come to New York from the Netherlands. I assumed, because she had no English and I thought it was post war, that this was for reasons related to the post war state of affairs there, but no reason is given.  There is only one African American character (in the kitchen).  And then there is the role of men and women - there is one very central female character, a divorcee and single parent, but the other women seem to be at home, with an allowance and having martinis made for them by their husbands...

But the reason for this post is mental health.   The central character, Kris Kringle, is convinced he is Santa Claus.   He has taken part in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, as Santa, but thinks he actually is.  The State of New York wishes to have him declared insane and there is a court case.   Santa's lawyer (or Kris Kringle's) argues that because the post office can deliver letters to "Santa Claus" to Mr Kringle, therefore (because they are a federal agency), he must be Santa Claus.  There is the proof.

There's a shot of a news report referring to psychiatrists as "alienists", which is interesting.

But, the thing that I found really interesting was the reason why Santa / Kris was put into a hospital and then taken to court was because he had confronted Macy's in store psychologist about his dealings with Alfred, the janitor in Macy's.  His appointments with Alfred had convinced Alfred that he had "issues" (a modern term for it).  Santa/Kris was sure the psychologist had no qualifications, and after hitting him with his cane, was taken away to a secure hospital.  Santa/Kris had actually already had his own appointment with the psychologist, and he had obviously had this sort of appointment before, as he knew exactly  what to expect and had upset the psychologist by apparently not taking things seriously, because he knew what the questions were going to be, and what the answers were.

There is a lot in this film that perhaps would not have been commented on in 1947, but would be now.  And that includes the things about mental health and the attitudes to it.  Who is sane and who is not?   And who is anyone to say what is wrong with someone else, and judge their demeanour or attitude?

Then there's the smoking - of a pipe in the house, and then of a cigarette in the bedroom.  But that is a whole other blog post. 

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