The Ninth Configuration 1980 ***


Famously troubled and available in several versions, The Ninth Configuration is a powerful anti-war film set in a remote psychiatric hospital, not at all what Exorcist author Peter William Blatty was expected to create. Starting with a beautiful rendition of the song San Antone by Denny Brooks over a melancholic series of images of a snowbound castle, Blatty follows up with a stunning credits sequence featuring the voice of Scott Wilson as Billy Culshaw, an astronaut losing his grip on reality during a Cape Canaveral launch. The stir he creates within the institution makes Blatty’s film something of a companion piece to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with which it shares a mordant black humour and anti-authority heft. A genuine attempt to put counter-cultural ideas on screen, the pivotal image of a lunar astronaut discovering a statue of Christ on the moon gives an idea of the film’s lofty philosophical ambitions.

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