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    Belonging: Girl Interrupted. Lisa and Susanna Essay

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    Essay Question: Compare and contrast Lisa and Susanna’s characters in the film. How do the film techniques used reflect how they belong (or not belong) in the outside world? Lisa and Susanna’s characters in the film are very different even though some aspects of their personality are slightly similar. The film techniques used give us a better idea of how each of their personality is portrayed. Lisa and Susanna both have a disorder and see the world in a different perspective which highlights what kind of person they are and show us the disorder they are suffering through their actions and dialogue.

    Susanna is confused as she has borderline personality disorder. Her personality is also somewhat eccentric at times although there is another side to her that shows us sensitivity and how she thinks about the world in great dept. She does not quite understand her disorder which makes her think that she is pretty normal and in no need of any specific medical attention and she gets frustrated when people mention about her disorder and begins to question herself sometimes. We see this particularly towards the middle of the film where she is starting to see and accept the fact that she has a disorder.

    She is constantly on a rollercoaster of emotions and feels like she is travelling back and forth in time due to her borderline personality. We see through specific scenes when Susanna and her boyfriend are together, that Susanna is using her boyfriend and does not feel the same way towards John as he feels about her. Her definition of love is much different. Unless it is not love she was looking for in him. She was constantly manipulating him, making him think that their relationship meant something when she was just being promiscuous.

    Susanna’s clothing and style is less feminine than other girls. We can see this as her costuming reflects it. Her haircut is also cut short which symbolises rebellion and we can see that she does not want to conform to people in the society. Her posture is at times hunched which make us feel as if though she is insecure with herself. She is very skinny which sometimes people view this as she may be undernourished, not just with food, but also meaning that she has no place in the world how everyone doesn’t understand her as she understands herself.

    Another point that highlights that she has a disorder and that she does not feel her best is how most of the time she looks pale, which adds to this effect. There are several techniques used to help display the emotions that Susanna is feeling and how the scene makes her out be. Throughout the movie, low angle shots and panning downwards are techniques that have been used to emphasise her low status or her unhappiness. We see this visually, as it makes her look small. The music also plays a vital part in showing what is happening in the film.

    Whenever Susanna feels alone and withdrawn, depressing music starts playing which makes us feel sympathetic towards her. Music is also sometimes played to establish the time (which was the 60’s). Close ups help us understand and get a better view of what she is feeling at the present time. And lastly, voice over is an important technique that is used many times throughout the film communicating to us how she feels and makes us focus on her better. A scene that in particular highlights the “belonging” of both Lisa and Susanna is when they are at the bowling alley.

    They look as if they are both getting up to mischief with the rest of the girls but they are actually happy and feel fresh and energised since they are all together. This scene shows us the joy that is brought out amongst the girls as they are bowling and yelling and having a great time. This scene is so important as there aren’t particularly many scenes that show all the girls being happy around each other which makes this scene easy to remember and one that is important to the topic of “belonging” in society. The “outside world” for both Lisa and Susanna is not a very welcoming one.

    Where the society out there is not the same and people judge and comment on these girls at every direction they turn. Stepping outside is tough for them as they are not comfortable with themselves and their abilities to be with people who do not have a disorder with such impact. Although inside the mental institution, the challenges they face are different, they still suffer from fitting into the society. Issues occur where a mix of these disorders do not make a very pleasant atmosphere. Towards the middle though, they learn to almost cope with each other as they find out more about themselves and the rest of the people.

    They learn to be more involved and start to like each other a lot better. Lisa has a very wild and confident character. Most of it is due to her personality although her disorder plays a key role on how she interacts with people and thinks about life in general. She has the ability to manipulate people and make them afraid of her if they ever plan to cross her and make her get in an argument. This is why she feels so powerful, because she knows that no one can stand in her way and she can do what she wants. There are rarely any times throughout the film where she really cares about people and their emotions.

    Most of the time she is a negative influence on Susanna in the movie, as she does terrible jokes and lacks respect towards other people. Her posture and the way she moves as she is walking highlight her confident character. Even when she sits on a chair, she is sitting with confidence. Her clothing is bright coloured showing her energetic character and her hair is always let out showing her confidence and that she always lets out her emotions. Her nails are often very long which we can tell as the doctors in the mental institution are always willing to cut them.

    This shows us that she possibly might be aggressive as long nails are interpreted as tools to scratch people with. There are several techniques used to help reflect Lisa’s personality throughout the film. Close-up shots give us a view of emotions that are expressed in the film. Most of her emotions are either angry or sly as we can tell her eyebrows protrude upwards and we can either watch her tension building up when she’s angry or she shows off a smirk to let us know when she’s being sly or happy.

    Other techniques that show us a full view of her body and how she acts is a long shot to medium shot which appears many times when Lisa is on screen. A very visual scene that helps describe how confident Lisa is and how people cannot fire back at her is when Lisa is meeting face to face with Susanna for the second time and as Lisa is sitting down and talking to her, Lisa blows smoke from her cigarette at an old lady’s face, as the old lady watches her and does not react even without blinking.

    This scene also shows the comparison between Lisa and Susanna as when Susanna blows smoke on the lady’s face, she was quite upset and told her off. This shows that Lisa has much higher status than Susanna and that nothing can upset Lisa since people don’t react at all to her once she disrespects them. Towards the end of the film, a very important scene that emphasises both Lisa and Susanna’s personalities is the suicide scene where Daisy kills herself according to what Lisa said. As Lisa was telling the truth in a hurtful way, she upset Daisy in a way that brought her self esteem down so much that she committed suicide.

    This scene really highlighted the bad side towards Lisa. What was even more disrespectful was once Lisa found out Daisy committed suicide, she did nothing and smiled out of satisfaction. We see Susanna on the other hand, trying to be sympathetic and cheering Daisy up when she and Lisa had the feud, which makes us see the positive side of Susanna, showing that she cares for Daisy’s emotions. We see also when Susanna found Daisy in the bathroom that she screamed in contempt as she knew Lisa had something to do with this and it was the most horrible sight she would have seen.

    This shows us the compassion that at least Susanna has for her. Some film techniques that reflect how the atmosphere of this scene was are the camera shots including close-ups showing the various range of emotions from all three of the girls and medium shots which show us their movements and gestures as well as the expressions on their faces. And lastly, the music in the scene was very important. In the bathroom whilst Susanna was crying, depressing and almost thundering music played giving us the expression of sadness and distress.

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