Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Unusual Chapter in Whitman's Life FILM REVIEW

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Unusual Chapter in Whitman's Life FILM REVIEW

Article excerpt

WALT WHITMAN'S poetry captures the spirit of not only the author himself - as vivid and vigorous as that is - but also the complex and often turbulent 19th century in which he lived. "Beautiful Dreamers," a new Canadian film by John Kent Harrison, paints a distinctive portrait of Whitman by moving him outside his usual haunts in the United States, and examining an incident that seems unconventional even in the context of his extraordinary life.

"Beautiful Dreamers" begins by introducing a Canadian who appears to have little in common with the famous poet, although he's based on an actual person who eventually became Whitman's biographer. His name is Maurice Bucke, and he lives in London, Ontario, where he runs a hospital for the insane - quite a job during the Victorian era, when the treatment and study of mental illness was even more tentative and debated than it is today.

He wants passionately to help his patients live as productively and contentedly as possible. His intentions are continually thwarted, however, not only by illnesses he imperfectly understands, but also by the rigid and frequently destructive methods of his colleagues in the medical profession.

Bucke has a crisis of conscience during a lecture trip to the US, and despairs of doing any real good in his career. But then he meets a man whose enthusiasm for life, love, and the richness of human experience goes beyond anything he's encountered before. The new friend is Whitman, still earthy and plain-spoken despite his renown as a poet. Before long, he and Bucke travel to the Ontario asylum to see if Whitman's boundless affection - and unfailing interest in fresh, unorthodox ideas - can bring solace and healing to those in such desperate need.

The main subject of "Beautiful Dreamers" is the challenge faced by Bucke in his effort to humanize the treatment of those designated by his society as sick and abnormal. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.