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Sybil (1976) (DVD)
Two-time Academy Award winner Jessica Lange stars with Emmy Award winner Tammy Blanchard in a new adaptation of the deeply moving account of a young woman whose childhood of abuse drives her to create multiple personalities to survive--the true story of Sybil.After a suicide attempt, schoolteacher Sybil Dorsett (Blanchard--"Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows") seeks help from psychiatrist Dr. Corneila Wilbur (Lange--Big Fish, Blue Sky). Sybil confides that she frequently loses her memory and can't account for large blocks of time . . . and she slowly remembers the years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse inflicted by her mentally disturbed mother. During 11 years of sessions from 1954 through 1965, Sybil's 16 distinct personalities gradually emerge. Each reveals a different age, name and appearance--each created by, but unknown to, a girl trying to survive a harrowing homelife.]]>
The word "landmark" is fairly used in the case of Sybil: this 1976 TV movie brought new frankness to television, it raised the quality bar for the made-for-television movie, and it utterly changed the career of a future Oscar-winning actress. The film was based on the bestselling nonfiction book about a multiple-personality patient and her exhaustive therapy. It opens with a brilliant series of scenes that suggest how a young woman named Sybil (Sally Field) experiences unexplained blackouts, which brings her to the attention of a psychiatrist, Dr. Wilbur (Joanne Woodward). The film unfolds around the searching therapy sessions, laced with flashbacks to Sybil's toxic childhood. There's also a tentative romance between the lonely Sybil and a manchild (Brad Davis) who lives across the alley. Most notably, of course, there are the appearances of Sybil's alternate personalities, who express her strangled emotional life. Stewart Stern's sensitive script seems to flow organically from one scene to the next, and director Daniel Petrie frequently allows the camera to observe the acting acrobatics in long, challenging takes.
Woodward, who won an Oscar for playing a multiple-personality patient in The Three Faces of Eve, is all nurturing warmth as the steadfast doctor. But really this film was a sober coming-out party for Sally Field, who astonished viewers at the time by erasing all memories of Gidget and The Flying Nun, the bubblegum roles she'd mostly been known for. Field's work is anguished but non-actor-y, and despite the character's hidden personalities, she seems as clear as day in her performance. The production won four Emmys, not surprisingly including nods for Field, Stern, and Outstanding Special (Drama).
The 187-minute movie takes up one disc; the second disc has informative featurettes about the making of the film. Examining Sybil is an absorbing hour-long documentary with comments from Field and Woodward, as well as executive producer Peter Dunne. It is dominated by the spellbinding storytelling of Stewart Stern, who developed the screenplay by spending time with the real Dr. Wilbur and listening to tapes of her sessions with Sybil. His tale of Sally Field's unlikely audition triumph is a small movie in itself. The Paintings of Sybil presents a generous selection of paintings by the real Sybil (who became a professor of art), along with recollections by one of her friends. Something listed on the DVD cover as "Sybil Therapy Session" is misleadingly titled, suggesting some kind of actual footage or transcript of the real Sybil and her treatment; in fact, it's Stewart Stern describing the harrowing process of listening to the doctor's tapes. The real Sybil (now deceased) remains protected, as she should. --Robert Horton
SO MUCH MORE AWESOME THAN THE REMAKE!
Even though the "true" story turned out to be another "Million Little Pieces. Read more
I saw this movie when it was first released many years ago. It was just as good as I remembered. Sally Field's performance of a woman with multiple personalities was outstanding. Read morePublished 26 days ago by C. Powers
This was a very sensitive issue captured with amazing insight by both Sally Fields and Joanne Woodward, A hard subject to capture in a movie and yet still show the pain suffered... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Julie Miles
I have a handicapped daughter and she reallyenjoys this movie. This is the third one we have bought over the past 15 years.Published 1 month ago by Delola M Shaw
|Topic||From this Discussion|
Before high school, namesake, but from home as it was only on then at night.
May 15, 2015 by Eric Pregosin | See all 2 posts
Closed Captions (controlled by your TV) yes, Subbies (controlled by your player) no
May 15, 2015 by Eric Pregosin | See all 2 posts