This film is on nearly everyone's favorite films list, and for good reason. When I first saw this movie, many years ago, I thought it was about something else entirely. I had the naive belief that it was more of a comedy about a revolt at a mental institution, led by the charismatic McMurphy. Watching this movie now, I realize that it's more of a drama, a story instead about McMurphy's defeat. A human story.
I hadn't previously thought about the cinematography of this film, as there weren't many epic, complex shots. I realize now, however, that the simplicity of the cinematography is where the beauty of this film lies. Draining the asylum of color and life, Wexler does a nice job of portraying what this place would have looked like to his prisoners. Utilizing some nice filters, and also making the whites really glow and pop, the focus remains on the characters in this character-driven story. Also, the camera shots seem to focus on reactions: the reactions of each character to the scene and what's happening to them in it. I love this. The characters' emotions, reactions, and feelings are the heart of this story. Simple but intentional focus gives power to their plight.
This story has a common theme for the time period-a fight against the establishment. However, this movie takes this theme to a more engaging level by focusing on who these characters really are, and how they really feel, versus just on their mental illness and their alienated state.