Altered States (1980)


The mind is a powerful thing. Very powerful. When you step over that threshold of reality to dream, the longer you stay there the harder it is to differentiate the two. In the 1960’s Eddie Jessup (William Hurt) is pushing his mind to it’s limits. He has been experimenting with an isolation chamber/flotation tank, which causes him to have vivid hallucinations, mostly religious. Years later when he becomes a respected doctor at Harvard, he decides to try the isolation tank again, but using hallucinogenic drugs which will heighten his visions.


As he continues to use the tank, with the help of his colleagues Arthur Rosenberg (Bob Balaban), Mason Parrish (Charles Haid) and his wife Emily Jessup (Blair Brown) who is also a doctor, he finds that his physical and mental state are beginning to regress to almost primitive levels. Fearing for his safety, his wife and colleagues try to put a stop to it, but Eddie has gone too far to stop and wants to now go all the way.


I have always found Ken Russell, who directed this brilliant movie, to be a bit of an acquired taste. I have never seen The Devils or Women In Love which are two of his well known movies, but I have seen Tommy which I wasn’t crazy about. I had heard a lot about this movie before watching it, but was always apprehensive. I managed to get a copy of it on Blu Ray and I was just stunned. It had an effect on me that was similar to finding god. I don’t say this lightly. I was close to tears by the end. Not that it’s that sort of movie, but just that all of my emotions were at boiling point that I was literally an emotional wreck. I have always rated William Hurt as an actor and he is right on top of his game here. He really is fantastic.


The supporting cast of Bob Balaban, Charles Haid and Blair Brown are brilliant. There are also one or two other faces that you may recognise too. The visuals are astonishing for a film made at the beginning of the 80’s. Mainly during Eddie’s hallucinations, some being particularly disturbing. I really do recommend this. Get hold of it if you can and prepare to be stunned.




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