WEIRDLAND: Soderbergh's Unsane, The Informant!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Soderbergh's Unsane, The Informant!

Unsane (2018), shot entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus, is Steven Soderbergh’s unnerving portrait of a young woman who thinks she’s being held against her will at a mental institution. Part Shutter Island, part Get Out, Unsane stars Claire Foy as a mentally unravelling woman who reports the re-appearance of her stalker, only to be placed in a mental institution against her will. The authorities refuse to listen to her frantic story, leading her to question her own reality. The film also stars The Blair Witch Project‘s Joshua Leonard, Killer Joe‘s Juno Temple, and Traffic‘s Amy Irving. “I think this is the future,” Soderbergh said at the Sundance Film Festival. “Anybody going to see [Unsane] who has no idea of the backstory to the production will have no idea this was shot on the phone. That’s not part of the conceit.” The nightmare of being held in an institution because people think you’re crazy comes to life in palettes of yellow and blue. Source:

Who is Mark Whitacre? A bumbling dimwit struggling with a crisis of conscience? A misguided upstart fueled by greed? A lonely loser desperately searching for a sense of purpose? A simple man scrambling to survive in a world of cutthroats and cheats? A devoted husband and father? Compulsive liar? Scorned everyman? Lost soul? Criminal? All those things, and more? That's exactly what director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Burns wanted to know after reading former-New York Times journalist Kurt Eichenwald's book, The Informant, a sharply written farce that proves to be as funny and infectious as it is tragic and disarming. Damon’s work in “The Informant!” extends his interest in performance and self-delusion, but in the withdrawn nebbish mode. Mark Whitacre is literally coming apart at the seams physically before he does it psychologically. 

Damon is superb as a demonically smart guy who comes across as rather dim. Is Whitacre a knight in shining armor, a compulsive liar, playing secret agent or plagued by mental illness? Or is he all of the above? With his earnest demeanor and straightforward delivery, Damon convincingly obfuscates Whitacre's motives. We don't question his veracity as much as try to muddle through it. Soderbergh emphasizes the man’s duality through his use of voiceover, which features Whitacre’s perplexing digressions, constantly veering away from personal revelations to ponder the weather, food prices and polar bears. In a strange but fascinating touch, Damon voices his inner monologue. Often, his thoughts — an inane stream of consciousness — seem wholly unrelated to what's going on around him, which adds an intriguing absurdist quality to an already quirky tale. Damon’s performance is the lone element handed a wisp of depth within the entire film, while also supplying the only substantial laughs. Under an itchy wig and behind a mustache, Damon interprets Whitacre as a good-natured gentleman caught in the middle of a various schemes only he can solve; a pure soul stuck in a Grishamesque scheme of 360 degree corruption. Source:

'Know thyself’ is one of philosophy’s most ancient aphorisms. But can the self be empirically investigated? Antirealists deny the existence of the self – for them it is an illusion, a fiction of the mind, a useful conceptual tool for organising human experience. Daniel Dennett, a cognitive scientist at Tufts University in Massachusetts, defends the antirealist view. For Dennett, each ‘normal’ individual creates a self by spinning stories through language. It is both intrinsic and unconscious, argued Dennett in Consciousness Explained (1991). Because the self is constructed and abstracted out of narratives, it is permeable and flexible, and because of its permeability, the self eludes scientific scrutiny. Some individuals with schizophrenia report a deep sense of disintegration between themselves and their actions. They feel that they are automatons – their bodies can feel to them like alien objects. Changes in the private dimension of the self can be at least partially tracked by analysing how behaviour changes. The subjective and transient aspects of the self that antirealists delineate are actually the private and conceptual dimensions of the self. Mental disorders do not influence or change exclusively one dimension of the individual but multiple aspects simultaneously. Studying only one fractured aspect of their self (i.e. autobiographical memory) will not yield the rich results that will come from engaging with the self in its complexity. An integrated understanding of the different parts of the self is necessary to fathom the complexity of mental disorders. Source:

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