‘Catharsis’ as reviewed by Ren O’Hare

The first film screened on the inaugural night of The Film Scene was Melanie O’Donnell’s ‘Catharsis’. It follows  Ciara, a young woman battling with her mental health, as she seeks to find solace through paint and art, framed by conversations with her psychiatrist. 

The film opens with Ciara covering her hands in blue paint, and spreading it on a surface on the ground, the camera focusing on her hands, and the movement of colour. The paint later becomes yellow and then red, punctuating her own emotional journey. The use of yellow paint particularly emphasises the solace that she finds in paint, contrasting the lack of solace she finds when speaking with the professional psychiatrist, whom is later exposed as highly problematic. Right before this is exposed we see Ciara spread red paint across her face – pain on top of pain.

The act of painting with one’s body creates a natural intrigue in the viewer, as well as a crescendo throughout the piece, though the ending – one of exploitation is wholly unexpected in the way that it manifests, though hinted at through the characterisation of the characters throughout.

I found the film genuinely very interesting, in its exploration of the act of creating as a means of healing, and the power dynamics presented, that both those institutionalised, and women may deal with their lives. The extreme case of plagiarism depicted at the end, as the camera follows the supposed ‘artist’ to his successful reception reminded me of Margaret Keane, and her husband Walter Keane stealing her work, whom were also depicted in Burton’s 2014 film ‘Big Eyes’.

‘Catharsis’ as a whole was in equal part an exploration of colour and emotion, as well as the unfair power often exerted over those of mental ill health, in particular young women, their healing and their art often being attributed to sources outside of themselves, depicted in the literal instance of plagiarism.