Art of Psychiatry Society

Review: The man whose mind exploded
March 9, 2014, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized



The Man Whose Mind Exploded documentary film by Toby Amies

Review by Greg Neate

With a handheld camera and sometimes haphazard footage, this part gonzo documentary, part affectionate tribute sees first-time director, Toby Amies, investigate the final years of a determinedly individualistic yet vulnerable man, living alone on a Brighton council estate.

While Drako Oho Zarhazar’s colourful past contains enough source material for its own feature length film, it’s his cognitive impairment and declining health that draws the detective filmmaker into acting beyond being his champion. Breathlessness and neglected leg sores seduce Amies into becoming a carer for his friend, in as much as friendship’s possible with someone whose amnesia means he can’t recall who this frequent, camera-toting visitor is.

That’s not to say that ‘Drak’ lacks for an identity, as is evident from his tattooed and pierced physique that fills the screen. For this septuagenarian, “the world is my stage, so appearance is very important”; a personal assertion that would be widely endorsed by all who ever shared a bus journey with this Daliesque moustachioed, caped and croc wearing pensioner.

Still even his appearance only hints at what’s inside his cluttered, one bedroom flat where self-penned notes, old letters and eye-catching, male pornography dangle on countless strings creating a hectic, projected installation of his mind. With these hanging threads, Drak remains connected to his past, whilst Amies tries to see through them to understand how his film’s ‘star’ can live independently amongst increasing disorder but without apparent doubt.

“Trust. Absolute. Unconditional.” declares Drak, a motto which is permanently inked on his arm and which he adopted whilst recovering from his second life-threatening brain injury. It’s one of many repeated phrases and recollections that prevent him from becoming a stranger to his past, despite insisting that he lives “completely in the now”.

Interviews with his sister and nephew demonstrate that the former dancer and interior designer can relate meaningfully with those from his pre-injury past. His sister observes that despite being changed in character after his last coma, the ‘damaged’ Drak is more likeable, if still as irresponsible and hedonistic in spirit as ever.

As interesting as The Man Whose Mind Exploded makes as a case study, the film goes further by revealing the relationship between the two men, which tests each other’s tolerance. The ever stubborn subject faces down further do-gooder interference, the observer struggles with how far to intervene whilst faced with sheer bloody mindedness. This demonstration of exasperated but respectful caring for an individual’s autonomy and well-being is an unexpected outcome and it’s likely that no one would have been more surprised than this lifelong pleasure seeker.

However, with regards to whether either party is being exploited, the honours are often hilariously shared. “Do you think its fair for me to film stuff” asks Amies “when I know you’ve got brain damage?” “Yes” Drak replies instantly while plucking at his own nipples pleasurably, “because I enjoy being used!”

On the nearby pebbled, naturist beach, their mutual trust is most movingly displayed when filmmaker leaves his camera to appear cheekily in frame and assist his elder, disrobed friend with rising to his feet.

The Man Whose Mind Exploded is being screened at the British Film Institute, London as part of BFI Flare, the London LGBT Film Festival. Tickets are now on sale.  Mar 26 6:20 PM, Mar 29 6:40 PM, Mar 30 8:40 PM

Film website

Link to trailer

Link to facebook page

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