The Snake pit - Anatole Livak (1948)
Interesting to compare this with Hitchcock's 'Marnie' since they both build on similar psychological theory of insanity; childhood traumas can have severe impact on adult life and health, and to recover the patient has to re-experience the traumatic incidences and thus liberate the connected emotions that are blocked.
This movie has no crime plot, and has a different love drama; Virginia is earlier in her life trapped in a affair with a controlling man she doesn't love, he reminds her of her father which she had too much respect for, and she escapes into madness. She meets Robert, and starts a restricted affair and after a while marries him. I'm never sure if she really loves her husband or just need his as an anchor into sanity. What he sees in her is a open question to me; he might be masochistic since he doesn't get much in return for all his patience and concern.
The movie is more occupied with the illness itself; how Virginia is experiencing the harsh life in a mental hospital, but also the friendship among the patients, it shows dehumanized treatment of very sick patients and that the staff can be evil to the patients, and thus just as disturbed as those they are supposed to help. Here the movie is superstitious and just swipes over what later would be investigated more fully in Milos Forman's 'Next Flew over the Cuckoo's nest' from 1975.
The movie also shows some of the ridiculous rules to get released from this prison-like hospital, rules that are more insane than the illness of the patients. The movie could told us more about these forces and show more about the intrigues between the doctors and the vanity of those who are set to treat these poor patients. The movie just gives us hints, and doesn't explore these important factors deeply enough. I would say that the hospital represent the same cold and suppressive system as she experienced in her childhood and first love affair, and that the movies in this way tells a story about an authoritarian society that restrict and control women.
There are quite some scenes where we see both a coach and a picture of Freud on the wall at the doctor's wall. This must be a joke, and is an artifact, since none of the methods used in this hospital resemble the freudian way of curing patients at one single point, and the explanation of her illness is not more freudian than sugar is an important nutrition. It's just bullshit, it doesn't work that way - and put in the movie for the dramatic effect.
When Virginia is released I'm not sure if she would be considered cured, or just suppressed to adapt to a role and convention from society. Then the moral of the movie turns out that it is better to feel what the surroundings want you to feel, then be true to your self.
The acting is quite good, Olivia de Haviland has a challenging task that easily could be overplayed (as I think Tippi Hedren does in 'Marnie'). I believe she does the part mostly in a convincing way. The light is beautiful in this movie, and some of the cameramovements are also very nice. The movie is better made then Hitchcock's, it is smoother, where I often find Hitchcock a bit rough and uninspired made. Hitchcock is good at suspension, he knows how to build a interesting story where we never are quite sure about the guilt of the main actor, but can be a bit too sloppy both in casting and cutting.