The Mad Women’s Ball’ Confronts the Treatment of Female Hysteria

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The story imagines that one of the forty thousand mourners that lined the streets of Paris during Victor Hugo’s funeral procession in 1885 was gifted with the ability to see spirits and, for that very reason, she is institutionalized at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Asylum by her bourgeois family.

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There is one moment that stands out like a gleefully violent sore thumb. Without spoiling it, however, I can say the film accounts for it fairly quickly.

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Her brother indulges her in her desires and takes her to the Montmartre to read at the café, which is where she meets a man who lends her a book on spirits.

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The book provides her with a learned approach to the supernatural gift that she possesses and introduces the audience to her ability to speak to spirits.

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The Mad Women’s Ball is a beautiful, albeit dreary, film. While it could have benefited from being somewhat shorter (it is 121 minutes long) it captures the inhumane conditions that countless women endured and still endure at the hands of duplicitous doctors.

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The Mad Women’s Ball had its world premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is scheduled to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on September 17th, 2021.

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