TAE bring the curtain doun oan this year’s Glesga film festival, the closin gala hud a verra fittin film indeed. It’s nae aften we see films made anent Scottish heroes but we hud the premiere at the GFT o Mad To Be Normal, a bio-pic anent the veesionary, iconoclastic, maverick an radical Glesga psychiatrist RD Laing, portrayed wunnerfully in the film bi David Tennant.

Ootside the GFT, in scenes reminiscent o the Hollywood Oscar’s oangauns, the photographers wir ranked an reddy takkin snaps o the great an guid, an the rid cairpet wis leeterally rolled oot! The cinema wis hoachin fu o film fans! Ah seen a wheen o faces ah kent frae the media amang the audience. A corrieneuchin buzz rin throu the place an afore we aa settled doun tae enjoy the movie the festival’s co-directors Allan Hunter an Allison Gardner cam oan tae introduce the evenin. Alsae, afore the main event this year’s audience award wis gien oot; the film that bore the gree fir this this year wis Lipstick Under My Bhurka bi the Indian film maker Alankrita Shrivastava. She cam oan tae receive her award in person an wis aefauld fouthie in her comments anent the film fest. She alsae telt us that the film is banned in India acause o its strang feminist message. A mindin that free thocht an speech are a thing tae be treisuirt bi us aa – an no tae be taen fir granted.

We then hud a short spiel frae the film director Robert Mullan, wha spake verra weel anent the importance o film, then David Tennant hissel cam oan tae say a few wirds an swipper, free affhaund introduced a wheen o the cast memmers frae the film. Tennant is a maist likeable fellae; nae airs or graces wi him an verra doun tae yird. Mind, he luiked evri inch the movie star!

Bi this the rustlin o oor complimentary bags o popcorn hud subsided an the curtain cam up!

As a psychiatric nurse masel wha spent 27 years in the NHS ah hud bin luikin forrit tae this film. Whan ah duin ma trainin in the mid-1980s RD Laing wis aye heized up as a kindae mythical, legendary figure wha verra much pusht the boondaries o psychiatry. Ah’ve alsae mind, when warkin at Ailsa Hospital, readin an auld patient’s case-notes an cammin across haund written pages o notes, written bi RD Laing when the patient hud bin unner his care at a hospital in Glesga. Laing’s observations seemt tae me e’en then superbly objective – an his humanity shone throu thaim!

The film Mad To Be Normal concentrates oan Laing whan he wis at the peak o his pouers an influence, the mid-1960s tae 1970. This wis the time that Laing set up his (then verra radical!) medication-free community at Kingsley Hall in East London. These o coorse wir the days o free love an LSD, an the Summer o Love itsel. The film therefore gies an unflinchin portrayal o Laing’s experimentation oan his patients wi the hallucinatory 60s drug LSD. An a mad trip it is! Leeterally! The lysergic acid scenes, dream-like an nichtmarish in turn, add a potent mix tae the film. It hud me thinkin that ah’d missed oot oan the rael adventurous times in psychiatric medicine! As ye can imagine, the medical establishment then (as nou!) luikt gey asklent at Laing’s methods. Thair are some byordnar an pouerfu scenes in the film whaur Laing clashes wi that establishment in the UK – and in the United States – an bi the sheer force o his will maks a brave staund oan behalf o his patients. We cuid mibbes dae wi a few mair like him the day tae staund up tae the libbit chiefs wha rin oor health buirds.

Tennant’s portrayal o Laing truly achieved that ‘suspension o disbelief’ needit in films. He did indeed becam RD Laing! It’s aiblins a role he wis born tae play! Magic can still heppen in cinema!

Tennant is ably supportit in the film bi the cast. Elisabeth Moss, wha plays his American pairtner Angie, is excellent. Her torturous life wi Laing epitomises hou deeficult it must be fir onybody tae try an leeve wi somebody wi the mercurial natuir o sic a man. Ither ensemble players; big nems, the likes o Gabriel Byrne an Michael Gambon, hae brilliant roles as some o Laing’s psychiatric patients – an tell their stories as anely journeymen actors cuid! Jerome Holder as the young psychiatric patient wi schizophrenia is warth a mention as weel.

RD Laing’s seminal wark The Divided Self wid hae bin essential readin fir ony student o psychiatry back in the day. Nae dout, acause o this exceptional film, Laing wull be picked up an be the subjeck o intense analysis an airgument yet agane. The film gies a “warty” portrayal o the man; talented, chairmin, arrogant, intelligent; the drucken boor – an the tender luver! Gin e’er thair wis a film that desairved an wis lang owerdue tae be made then this is it! Robert Mullan hus duin a great service tae Scotland – an the warld – bi bringin RD Laing back tae life!

At a time in the warld when eedjits are talkin aboot building wa’s – the Glesga Fim Festival is biggin bridges! Ye can keep yer La La Land – ah’ll hae Glesga Land ony day! Lang may the Glesga Film Festival’s lum reek!


Scots proverb of the week

A threid wull tie an honest man better as a rope wull dae a rogue.
An honest man will not struggle as he has nothing to fear.