×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Free the Mind’

Danish director Phie Ambo's beautifully crafted docu sheds light on the mysteries of the human mind.

With:

Richard Davidson, Travis Leannar, Stephen Lee, Ryan McCarney, Will Fortune. (English dialogue)

Free the Mind” is an elegant if somewhat overlong docu about the pioneering work of U. of Wisconsin psychologist Richard Davidson, who employs techniques of yoga and mediation along with the findings of neuroscience to help patients with ADHD and PTSD take control of their runaway emotions. Beautifully crafted by Danish director-cinematographer Phie Ambo (“Mechnical Love”), and with an unusually prominent credit for a “visual designer” (Anders Ladegaard), the film’s style is a rapt combination of hushed intimacy and gliding elegance. There isn’t a jittery smash-and-grab handheld shot in sight. The calming effect of these images feels downright therapeutic — and fittingly so. Davidson says his work was inspired in part by a meeting with the Dalai Lama, so that his notion of “taking intentional control of our own minds” also has a spiritual dimension. After wide fest play, the pic opened Stateside Sept. 20 on a single Gotham screen.

In sensitively recorded scenes, the film focuses on the treatment of a five-year-old boy named Will (suffering from ADHD) and of a group of recent veterans with post-traumatic stress symptoms such as uncontrollable explosions of anger. The techniques employed are sometimes very simple, almost metaphorical. We see how the agitated parcels in a snow globe help Will to perceive and begin to control the agitation in his mind. The vets achieve what are said to be measurable reductions of symptoms of fear and anger and improved sleep patterns.

The film follows Davidson’s honorable determination to be clear about the limits of his knowledge. Even when techniques work, he admits, he doesn’t always know why. “How consciousness arises from this blob of matter that weighs three pounds,” he says, “is still very much a mystery.”

Perhaps it’s unfair to suggest that the very modesty of the film’s tone, admirable as it is, makes “Free the Mind” seem too tentative to justify its 79-minute running time. But as a PBS or cable presentation, or as a homevid release for specialist audiences and classroom use, this lovingly crafted presentation should have a long life. The film’s vaguely new age-y spiritual subtext could also generate some word of mouth, while director Ambo’s touch is light enough to avoid turning off viewers allergic to this sort of material.

Film Review: 'Free the Mind'

Reviewed online, Sept. 20, 2013. (In Goteborg Film Festival; CPH:DOX.) Running-time: 79 MIN.
 

Production:

(Documentary — Denmark-Finland) An International Film Circuit release (in U.S.) of a Danish Documentary Production presentation with support from The Danish Film Institute, DR Danish Broadcast Corporation and Nordisk Film & TV Fond, in coproduction with Making Movies,  with support from The Finnish Film Foundation and Yle. Produced by Sigrid Dyekjaer. Co-producer,  Kaarle Aho. Executive producers, Pernille Rose Gronkjaer, Mikala Krogh, Eva Mulvad.

Crew:

Directed by Phie Ambo. Camera (color), Phie Ambo; editor, Marion Tuor; music, Johann Johannsson; sound designer, Rasmus Winther; assistant director, Lisa Konoplisky.

With:

Richard Davidson, Travis Leannar, Stephen Lee, Ryan McCarney, Will Fortune. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Bradley Cooper speaks at the 30th

    Producers Guild Shifts 2020 Awards Show to Hollywood Palladium

    The Producers Guild of America will hold its 31st Annual Producers Guild Awards at the Hollywood Palladium, shifting the site from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The PGA had already announced that the show would take place on Jan. 18. The organization, which represents more than 8,000 producers, announced Thursday that it has launched a new [...]

  • Adam Driver appears in The Report

    Amazon’s ‘The Report’ Gets U.K. Theatrical Release Ahead of Streaming Launch

    Amazon Studio’s “The Report” will be released theatrically in the U.K. three weeks before it lands on the Prime Video streaming service. The Scott Z. Burns film tells the story of Daniel J. Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer who worked to reveal that truth about an “enhanced interrogation” program run by the CIA in the [...]

  • Elton John performing at Earls Court,

    Elton John Has a Message for Struggling LGBTQ Youth: 'Be Proud of Who You Are'

    Elton John isn’t at a loss for words when asked if he has a message for young LGBTQ people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. In an exclusive interview with Variety at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, just hours before the world premiere of his long-in-the-works biopic “Rocketman,” John spoke candidly about the [...]

  • Salma Hayek Owen Wilson Bliss

    Salma Hayek, Owen Wilson to Star in Amazon's Sci-Fi Drama 'Bliss'

    Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson have signed on to star in Amazon’s science-fiction drama “Bliss,” with Mike Cahill directing from his own script. Wilson portrays a recently divorced man whose life is falling apart when he meets Hayek’s character, a woman who lives on the streets and is convinced that the polluted, broken world around [...]

  • Donald Glover Beyonce

    Beyoncé and Donald Glover Harmonize in 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' Ad Preview

    Anyone who’s longed to hear Beyoncé and Donald Glover harmonizing got just enough to further whet the appetite in a first snippet of their version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” that’s included in a new commercial for Disney’s upcoming “Lion King” remake. The TV spot lasts just 30 seconds, hardly time at all [...]

  • Pride Allies

    The Hollywood Allies Who Helped Protect, Advance the LGBTQ Community This Year

    Strong and proud as it is, the LGBTQ community’s fight for equality needs allies — from loving and accepting families to galvanized colleagues and corporations to the movie star you’ve never met calling for boycotts of a homophobic nation-state. Several of those queer supporters in Hollywood and music used the megaphones of social media, public [...]

  • 'Easy A' Spinoff in the Works

    'Easy A' Spinoff in the Works From Original Screenwriter (EXCLUSIVE)

    Nearly a decade after the success of “Easy A,” a spinoff of the coming-of-age comedy is in the works. Sources tell Variety that Screen Gems has appointed Bert Royal, who penned the first script, to write and direct the upcoming movie. Insiders stress that the film is still in early development, as Royal is still [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content