Just before the start of Alex GibneyDocumentary “Crazy, not crazyHis subject asks the kind of essential question that feels so unanswerable that it is nowhere near as often addressed as it should be. She ponders the nature of evil and recalls her childhood interest in the Nuremberg trials. She asks very clearly: “Why don’t I kill?” Everyone gets angry. But not everyone does bloody murder. Aside from answers of a spiritual nature, squareing this circle inevitably means hanging out with some very uncomfortable people. This is exactly what the woman who asked the question had a career.
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Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a forensic psychiatrist with the chipper, the eager demeanor of someone who spends much of their day smirking at the glorious strangeness of the world, began her career with juvenile delinquents. She discovered that many of the murderous individuals had a combination of mental dysfunction and child abuse. She believed in her core, that “killers are made, not born,” and delved deeper into the subject. This led her to interview over 20 serial killers to see if she would find similar backgrounds. She did.
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As far as possible, Lewis is a solid, but not too surprising, subject for Gibney to make an entire movie. While the link between childhood trauma and later antisocial or criminal behavior has been known for some time, the belief that crimes are only committed by people in full control of their senses remains widespread. To illustrate what Lewis describes as the turn of the American judicial system from rehabilitation to punishment, Gibney drops clips from Hillary Clinton and Joe BidenCreepy speeches about vicious young criminals who deserve nothing but a prison cell. If the film had dealt with the psyches of murderers who, if raised by different parents or had no brain abnormalities that interfered with their decision-making ability, would never have hurt anyone, it would have found a more convincing way of answering Lewis’ question at the beginning .
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But it doesn’t. Lewis starts looking at multiple personality disorders a little early. When she first started studying the subject, it had fallen out of favor with the mental health community. When she talks about her investigation into a serial killer like Arthur Shawcross, it’s not hard to see why. Shawcross is tried on several gruesome quasi-cannibalistic murders and appears in his taped interview with Lewis to speak in different voices as different personalities inhabiting the same body. But the voices are inconsistent, and as one forensic psychiatrist argues for the prosecution, Lewis’ portrayal in the interview could be viewed by some as coaching and suggestive.
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Lewis’ suggestion of being seriously trauma
inflicted on them at a young age, distance themselves from the abuse inflicted on them
it as a survival technique makes perfect sense. But their argument or at
At least the version of it that Gibney includes here that such victims turn theirs
The separation into one or more people (whom she calls “changed”) works
as invented protectors is a little harder to swallow. When she describes
Interview with Ted Bundy, looking for evidence of a family trauma despite his
It’s hard to believe that his childhood wasn’t affected by abuse
of everything but a hammer looking for a nail.
Perhaps the factor that keeps “Crazy, Not Insane” from coming together in a gripping narrative despite its charming, absent professor for a subject, is the inability to get to the heart of the question. Gibney has done a lot of work recently, with some of the better examples like “Totally under control” and “Agents of Chaos“Works as well as she does because he drives so hard for the net. “Crazy, not crazy,” like the very non-linear Lewis, winds its way through several tangents (the death penalty, which analyzes the nonsensical definition of legal insanity) without ever arriving anywhere. [C+]
“Crazy, Not Insane” will be broadcast on HBOMax on November 18th.