"One of the joys of the DVD format is the window it can provide to the very soul of a film. Especially in a case like this, where the film is based on personal experiences written into a book by the protagonist now portrayed by an actress. This is the story of a young girl who spent a year in an institution for being - well, different. But whether she needed this or something else, no-one dares speculate.
In the 12 minute Behind the Scenes feature, we meet the real Susannah Kayson, who - among other things - talks of "a strange kinship" she felt with Winona Ryder, who plays Kayson in her teenage years.
This feature, which also includes comments from Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg, producer Douglas Wick and others, takes us inside the film's process. Ryder talks about her own hospitalisation at age 20, and how she saw parallels with Kayson.
Why would you want to own a DVD copy of a film? In this case, it could be for several reasons: the film is rewarding on repeated viewing, whether it has been seen on the cinema screen or not. Secondly, the cast are uniformly spectacular, a study in the art and craft of acting. Thirdly, the subject matter is fascinating and important. There are deleted scenes - which were not cut for lack of relevance or poor quality, as director Mangold explains; it's just that the film would have been three hours long if these five scenes were left in. And so on.
Then there is the final reason: Mangold's intelligent commentary, which combines a casual intimacy with some illuminating insights. He explains why his first task was to find a structure for the film, since the book, beautiful though it is, is episodic and not told in a cinematic way (naturally enough). He talks off the cuff with a few ums and ahs, which underline the shared experience nature of the commentary.
One of the intriguing movies to which Mangold refers is Slaughterhouse Five, and how he was influenced by a technique used in that film to lay out for the audience the sense of disorientation that his central character feels. But perhaps his most memorable remarks are about the film's most important element. Unlike many movies about a troubled protagonist who in the third act reveals a terrible secret (a repressed memory of mum having been a prostitute who killed a sailor, say), in Girl, Interrupted the protagonist never discovers if such a secret even exists.
Mangold says this is really important to the film: it's something we haven't seen before. "Although we always crave answers," he says, "sometimes the most grown up thing a movie can do is not answer some questions."
Andrew L. Urban
We gratefully acknowledge the complimentary use of a DVD player from Philips.