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Tackling a question that at first seems blunt and unbelievable, The Voice in the Head proves that the central thesis question of “If sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them?” can be explored in a way that’s succinct.
Running at a mere 11 minutes, The Voice in the Head demonstrates an engagement with the subject of mental illness in a variety of unique ways, all the while intriguingly presented by a clear cinematic vision and understanding of form on the part of director Cyrus Trafford and his crew.
The story concerns a framing device of a young woman sitting a university exam, pondering the aforementioned thesis question. As she does so, she recalls an evening not too long ago where she had an encounter with a person suffering from a mental affliction whilst on the tube. Fascinated, she finds herself inadvertently going the same direction as the woman, and in doing so, begins to question where their differences really lie.
Told in a hypnotic fashion that combines an ever present narration voice over by lead actress Charlotte Luxford with striking visuals of snowy London at night, all presented in carefully plotted and choreographed steadicam set-ups that lull one into a sense of sleepy suggestibility. Aiding this dream-like feeling is a a haunting score by Sheridan Tongue and Mark Wind that mixes well with Luxford’s narration. All these stylistic choices are a godsend, for the film may take a different direction entirely if presented another way. The dreamlike attitude is a great way to interrogate those questions on mental health while staying fairly impartial or reserved on judgement.
The only reason why this should be mentioned is because while the intention of the piece is no doubt from a good place, it seems a little strange at points that a film concerning the plight of the mentally ill, or at least one that’s considering it in such a way that could be deemed affectionate would then go and fill the script with such undignified terms for its mentally ill character as “crazy woman”. Furthermore, since we’re listening to the story being conveyed as the answer to an exam style question, it feels odd that a university grade student such as our unnamed protagonist would use such unprofessional or unscientific terms in her thesis answer.
One can only hope that part of the film’s ‘true story’ status is that the term “crazy” is an affectionate term used amongst the real life persons that this story is based on, and that no offence is intended. And aside from these issues, The Voice in the Head is a sophisticatedly told story that manages to use some very impressive techniques to hook its audience before letting loose with the more thoughtful message underneath.