The film is handled confidently and occassionaly with great skill. The central theme. the actiyity of a mind in a destroyed physical heing. is illustrated (on a cue from Sacks‘ hook) in a superhlyconcciyed reading of Rilke's poem 'l’anther‘: ‘l lis gaze from going through the hars has grown So weary that it can take in nothing more. For him it is as if there were a thousand hars And hehind the thousand hars no world.‘

Sentimentalising and softening is nothing new to l lollywood. Since almost the heginning of the century. American film has hestowed a gilded and rose-petalled yision

on the world. and the world has lapped it up.

\Vhat has happened with ./'llt'(1/\'(’lllilltl".\‘. though. amounts to a yirtual hijack ~ a replacement ofone idea with another under the same name. (lone is the haggard figure of the book's Leonard l,owe. wildly swinging hetween ohsessiye sexual fantasy and arid intellectualism. lnstead. De Niro‘s character offers gruff simplicities of heart-warming comfort to an anti-social Williams. who himself undergoes a spiritual journey * which enable him only to get the gal. Not for nothing does Ronald Reagan appear to he the principal inspiration of De Niro's remarkahle performance. In the awkard relationship between the L two A wakenings. it is. unsurprisingly. Sacks


himself who is being pulled apart. Visiting Britain to puhlicise the film. his utterances on the suhject haye hecome increasingly guarded and amhiguous. In the new edition of his hook is an essay. ‘Awakenings On Stage and Screen‘. in which he shows his initial enthusiasm for the film project for which he was hired as a technical consultant: ‘1 could respond to. clearly and positiyely. the emotional truth of the portrayals. the imagination and depiction of the inner liyes of the characters.‘ Sacks is also clearly enthralled by De Niro's acting process: yet when challenged by Adam Mars Jones on

“Beyondthe tirst sense of exposure, they had a great sense otbeing forgotten, and a leelingthattheir lives mightbe of some interest and value—they said, “Tell ourstoryorit will neverbe


the Bl3(”c Late Show about the film‘s accuracy his reponse is far more equiyocal:

‘I don‘t know if I‘m endorsing it. I haye always said that this is their film. an autonomous enterprise. one that is differnt from the hook. I think it's prohahly hest and easiest to see the film first: not the other way round.‘

Authenticity is clearly needed and demanded by the filrnrnakes given their radical departure from the book‘s content and only Sacks” word can give it to them. This makes his position uniquely difficult and criticism of him is misplaced as. in the end. his priorities will he to reach the mass audience that the film can give him. The fact that it will serve as a prologue to his written work may be slightly shameful. hut is no reflection on him. What is important to him is his duty to his patients. to help exorcise the 40 years of rejection that they suffered while ahandoned in their hospital. 'Beyond the first sense ofexposure. they had a great sense ofheing forgotten. and a feeling that their lives might he ofsome interest and value they said. “Tell our story or it will never be known.”

A wakenings (/2) opens on Friday 2.? Mare/1

at Glasgow ( 'unmm I/ze Forge and selected

Orleans and U( '15:

The List 22 March 4 April 19917