September 27, 2007
Pink Cloud Black Cloud - U.S., 2006
Four anti-depressants, one mood stabilizer, six anti-psychotics, two PSNs, four times a day - this was the daily cocktail taken by Dyanne Drummonds, the subject of a short documentary called Pink Cloud Black Cloud. On July 14, 2005, Dyanne made the decision to stop taking this medication cocktail, for it had caused her to lose what she calls her “mental agility.” Because of this, she is sometimes unable to find the words to describe things and finds herself lacking passion and strong feelings. The documentary shows the viewer the four months of Dyanne's life following her decision, and in the process, it takes the audience on a rather extraordinary journey.
As Dyanne explains it, she has three conditions: borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and social anxiety disorder, each of which requires its own prescription. For five years, doctors have been adding and making changes to her cocktail, but her problems have persisted. To her, not taking her prescription is a way of taking back control. And in the beginning, her decision pays off.
Dyanne's story is told in three parts. First, there is August, which initially brings positive feeling. Dyanne describes herself as feeling alive and starting to sprout. However, later that month, Dyanne, unable to rid herself of the worry that she will decline and fearing that her positive feelings will end, checks herself into a hospital, which she describes as a very painful place. When she gets out, she tells us that the doctors have prescribed a new anti-depressant for her. In September, Dyanne once again feels positive about life, referring to the person she is now as "confident Dyanne" and "non-prescription Dyanne." She goes to a street fair, where she exhibits what has to be one of the most genuine smiles you'll ever see. Dyanne is seen volunteering for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill because, as she says, it's important for people to know that they are not alone. October brings Diane's 50th birthday and with it a flood of emotions that Dyanne cannot trace the source of. Is it the normal feelings that go along with a birthday? Is it the medication? Is it her condition? She has no answers and fears that her depression is returning.
Several moments in the film stand out. Early in the film, there is a shot of Dyanne's medication that will shock people. In another scene, Dyanne is seen looking at a beautiful river, and yet she explains that she keeps wondering if Spalding Gray's body will float by. Perhaps most memorable are the scenes of Dyanne after she has checked herself into the hospital. In them, she sits on a hospital bed in a depressed state and relates her feeling of being substandard. It is truly heartbreaking. The film also shows Dyanne in the opposite state. At times in the film, she is positive and cheerful. In one scene, she goes to a museum and explains the significance of a statue of a woman. Her explanation of both the history behind the statue and its significance to her are inspiring.
At one point, Dyanne asks why the answer to a problem is always a pill, and she wonders if she can change without medication. Pink Cloud Black Cloud does not claim to have the answers to these questions. Perhaps the film's greatest revelation is that we know very little about curing the mind of anxieties and emotional difficulties. If we did, Dyanne's treatment would have ceased by now. Instead, a patient is asked to rely on a pill for each condition, which as Dyanne tells us has left her unaccustomed to controlling herself, unable to say where the medication stopped and she began. This is a lesson that everyone should take to heart. (available on DVD at http://www.pinkcloudblackcloud.com/; also can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/)
3 and a half stars
*Pink Cloud Black Cloud is grainy at times. There are also a few moments during which Dyanne is hard to hear. However, these moments are short-lived and do not take away from the film's power.
**In the interest of full disclosure, it should be mentioned that the director of the film, Paul Cogley, is the reviewer's stepfather.