There has been a lot of talk about mental illness as of late, anything from the dangers of it to the ways to prevent it. While some of the articles can be on the opposite spectrum of opinions, the important things is that the conversation is being had. Mental illness isn’t something that only happens to the distraught or the misfortunate, it’s something that most people will deal with at least one time in their lives.
This isn’t something to be ashamed of, instead in realizing this you find strength in numbers and normalcy. One advocate for the strength between us is filmmaker Cyrus Trafford. His new short film The Voice in the Head is a meritorious expression of the complicated way we discern mental health.
The Voice in the Head follows a university student (Charlotte Luxford) as she ponders the exam question, “If sanity and insanity exists, how shall we know them?” The film is a beautiful response to the question and her reasoning behind her answer.
The film shows a humanity behind the perception that I believe most films lack, but to Trafford the inclusion was always important. As they say, we all end up in the same place once we have reached the fulfillment of life, it’s baffling that we put so much energy in the things that separate us.
“If one doesn’t show the humanity, commonality in the work then I believe the work is untruthful,” Trafford adds. “In respect to Mental Health, unless you live in a constant state of ‘Presence’ like Eckhart Tolle, then the odds are you will have suffered from some form of mental health issue in the past or will suffer from it in the future. So to not show the commonality when it’s so prevalent would be grossly untruthful.”
The truth shown in the film is non-apologetic. It compels the audience to examine our own state to define ourselves. It’s not an easy task, but one that Trafford takes responsibility in presenting. For him, the question becomes more than just about sanity, but settles on our description of the word. The heart of the film is its representation of the connection between the humanity and the diversity in the degrees in which some people suffer.
“Part of me actually feels, post making this film, that the question David Rosenhan should’ve asked was perhaps ‘If DYSFUNCTION and Insanity exist, how shall we know them?’” Trafford says. “To me that is not sanity, that’s dysfunction. If you run a manufacturing plant and you can’t switch off the production line, dysfunction sets in pretty quickly. Now this becomes really interesting, because how does one distinguish dysfunction from insanity?”
In any film of this magnitude, the proposed thesis can be hard to deliver. For The Voice in the Head not only was the film billowing with truth, but Trafford took time in production to present a subtle yet impactful story. The film’s main character does not speak throughout the film, it’s only her inner thoughts as she answers the exam question that we follow. The acting had to be close to perfection to allow the actress to tell a story through her eyes, and Luxford was a beautiful choice for our guide.
Trafford spent countless hours with both Luxford and Stella Willow (who plays the crazy woman Luxford observes), rehearsing with them to insure they maneuver the line between “precise gradations of emotions and objectives for each scene,” as Trafford explains. The attention to not only the details of the story of the film but the outcome has lead to the creation of a stunning film.
The film makes an impression with the audience that is lucky enough to see the film, but it is also a part of a much larger movement. In recent years, the conversation about mental health is expanding as more influential people are discussing their struggle with the disease. This emergence has allowed for those who suffer in silence to banish their feelings of isolation. Trafford believes this is not only because our society is willing to understand the struggle, but also because those who struggle are ready to take charge.
“I feel as a species we are starting to evolve consciously at a quicker rate and in-turn becoming more open and tolerant to others. Being open implies being accepting, so as a result that means being accepting of people who suffer from mental health issues,” Trafford adds.
It seems that it is serendipitous that The Voice in the Head has embarked on its journey with audiences. It not only serves as a catalyst for the shift in our perceived classification of mental illness, but also serves as a beacon of hope for others. It’s in the truth expressed through this artistic venture that one can find the courage they need to travel down the path through the obstacles that this disease generates. In the end of it all we are all equal, and through that equality we can find our strength.
The Voice in the Head is now available, and you can watch the film on Vimeo.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by London Flair PR