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Lingvistov Films in English: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" is a 1975 drama film directed by Milo? Forman and based on the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. It speaks about McMurphy who has a criminal past and has once again gotten himself into trouble with the law. To escape labor duties in prison, McMurphy pleads insanity and is sent to a ward for the mentally unstable. Once here, McMurphy both endures and stands witness to the abuse and degradation of the oppressive Nurse Ratched, who gains superiority and power through the flaws of the other inmates. McMurphy and the other inmates band together to make a rebellious stance against the atrocious Nurse. 

Cuckoo Front CoverLet's train our English Listening skills. Here are some exercises you can do after watching the film.

I. Who do the following words belong to? Recall the situations they were uttered in.

  1. ‘Well, I tried, didn't I? Goddamnit, at least I did that.’
  2. ‘Mmmmmm, Juicy Fruit.’
  3. ‘What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin'? Well you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average guy out walkin' around on the streets and that's it.’
  4.  ‘Have you ever heard of the old saying, a rolling stone gathers no moss? Does that mean something to you?’ – ‘Uh... It's the same as, don't wash your dirty underwear in public.’
  5. ‘You're not an idiot. Huh! You're not a goddamn looney now, boy. You're a fisherman!’
  6.  ‘The last time I seen my father, he was blind and diseased from drinking. And every time he put the bottle to his mouth, he don't suck out of it, it sucks out of him until he shrunk so wrinkled and yellow even the dogs didn't know him.’
  7. I'm not saying they killed him. They just worked on him. The way they're working on you.’
  8. But I don't like the idea of taking something if I don't know what it is... I don't want anyone to try and slip me salt-peter. You know what I mean?

II. Refer the following vocabulary to portray one of the characters.

a loony/a nut/a wacko; steely-willed; suffers emotional disturbance resulting from a domineering mother; serves one’s own ego needs rather than the therapeutic needs of the patients; flamboyant; maintains the status quo; protests against heavy-handed rules; wise-guy.

  • a silent, dignified, huge and towering Indian giant "Chief" - a "deaf and dumb Indian" "as big as a god-damn tree trunk" - with a father blinded after many years of alcoholism
  • a pathetic, incessantly stuttering, paranoid boychild, thirty-year old Billy Bibbit - shy, virginal, impressionable, and deathly afraid of his mother
  • an ineffectual, rationalizing intellectual Dale Harding - relatively sane but unable to get over his wife's betrayal and adultery when she "seeks attention elsewhere"
  • an insecure neurotic Charlie Cheswick lacking self-confidence
  • a short, smiling Martini with an immature personality
  • a cynical, trouble-making sadist Taber 

III. Speak on the following.

  1. What is the film about? Where is the scene laid?
  2. What do you think about the protagonist of the film? What is the effect of his staying at mental asylum?
  3. Why doesn’t Nurse Ratched want to change the "carefully worked out schedule" and let the patients watch the World Series baseball game?
  4. Why is the fishing trip therapeutic for the patients?
  5. What is insanity? Is it a diagnosis of way of thinking?
  6. What do you think about the ending of the movie? What were Chief’s motives when killing McMurphey?

IV. Themes to consider:

    • Physical and moral courage
    • Self-reliance
    • Independence
    • Humor and satire, the power of laughter
    • Human freedom  vs control
    • Importance of sexuality

V. Role play

The doctors are discussing the treatment of mentally-ill patients. Some cling to traditional medicine (the use of electric shock therapy and strong drugs, stern control) while the others are insisting on therapeutic role of nature and understanding, importance of human freedom and feelings. 

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