Posts Tagged ‘illness’

A baptism by fire: Why Paul Dalio’s debut as a filmmaker is Touched With Fire

July 25, 2016

TOUCHED WITH FIRE PosterPremiered last year at SXSW, with a theatrical run this spring, and now on DVD, Paul Dalio’s first full-length feature film, Touched With Fire, is a love story between two bipolar poets that reveals the relationship between illness and creativity.

Dalio was inspired by Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, which explores the link between great art and bipolar disorder. He read that many famous writers, poets, and artists suffered from this mania and may have produced their work because of it. Their genius was touched with fire.

This was a welcome relief for Paul who had become bipolar. He now saw himself no longer in clinical terms as a social outcast without a cure, but as a creative artist who was dealing with a neurological imbalance.

The most well known example of that heightened state was Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The painting is a kind of leitmotif throughout the film, even materializing as a literal hallucination by the main characters.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Reflecting on his own experience of being bipolar, Paul wanted people suffering with the illness, and those concerned with their health, to better understand what they are going through, that they are not necessarily crazy, perhaps gifted, and to help remove the stigma associated with the disease.

He compares the manic highs and depressive lows of the disease to the seasons. The film’s palatte of colors reflects the changing emotions within and between the main characters. Attempts to control these mood swings with drugs create deadening side effects, part of the conflict within their relationship.

In his Huffington Post blog, Touched With Fire, Paul asks: How much more receptive would a patient be to treatment if the patient was told that the treatment was to nurture a gift they had, instead of terminate a disease they had?

Director Dalio gave author/psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison a role in the film as herself, to explain how the right balance of medication can help rather than hinder a manic personality. Marco is concerned that the medications are stopping him from feeling any emotions, and is destroying his creativity. From her own experience, Kay shares with them how “medication can tamp the fire down a bit without losing that gift.” She tells him, with the right dosage, which takes time, she became even more productive than before becoming bipolar.

Cast and Crew

Paul Dalio wrote, directed, edited and scored Touched With Fire, his feature-film debut starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby, with other performances by Griffin Dunne, Christine Lahti and Bruce Altman.

Paul’s longtime friend, Jeremy Alter, produced the film, along with Kristina Nikolova, Paul’s wife and fellow student at the NYU Film School, who convinced him to make this semi-autobiographical film. Their teacher, Spike Lee, is the executive producer.

The brilliant acting in this passionately moving film is intensely engaging. Holmes (Carla) and Kirby (Marco) play two poets with bipolar disorder whose art is fueled by their emotional extremes. When they meet in a treatment facility, their chemistry is instant and intense driving each other’s mania to new heights. They pursue their passion, which breaks outside the bounds of sanity, swinging them from fantastical highs to tormented lows until they ultimately must choose between sanity and love. Watch the official trailer.

Comments from the Critics

The New York Times Critic’s Pick wrote: “Luke Kirby and Katie Holmes boldly meet the challenge of playing bright, high-strung artists. An extraordinarily sensitive, nonjudgmental exploration of bipolar disorder and creativity.” Read the Review: ‘Touched With Fire,’ a Love Story Between Two Bipolar Poets.

The Los Angeles Times said: Writer-director Dalio has firsthand experience with bipolar disorder, and his perspective sheds fresh light on the unique ways in which manic-depressive individuals experience love and creativity. Read the Review: Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby propel ‘Touched With Fire’ as it shines fresh light on bipolar disorder and creativity.

This is a powerful film! We witness their struggles from the inside out. More reviews are listed on the film’s website.

The Role of Poetry in the Film

In one of the interviews from the Special Features of the DVD, Paul Dalio talks about the value of poetry in his life, and for the main characters in the film. “It was only when I met my wife that my heart became more tender, and I actually started reading poetry, which I never did, and I started writing poetry.”

Paul describes the transforming power of poetry to heal and create beauty. He speaks from his own personal experience as someone who has dealt with the ups and downs of this disorder while trying to become a writer, composer, and filmmaker. The film is an amazing testament to his artistic achievement! See his bio under Cast & Crew for more details.

“Poetry at its best has the deepest expression of being in the worst hell, and having no choice but to bring some kind of aesthetic meaning to it, and some kind of beauty to it, just to even cope with it. (and) Only by being forced down there to such a hell are you forced to bring that much beauty to that hell, and in the process it becomes a healing. And so it was natural how it wove itself into the film, as these two characters use it to cope with their psychosis, and to deal with coming out of their situation.”

From my own experience, writing poetry does have the power to transform and heal. Another film where poetry is featured is in Words and Pictures, where a poem invites you to be who you are.

The Soundtrack to the Movie

Paul Dalio’s blog post includes both the song and lyrics to Starry Nights. Listen to the Touched With Fire Soundtrack Preview, followed by Starry Nights, the song at the end of the film during the credits, published by Lakeshore Records. Download the album on iTunes.

Interviews with the Director and Actors

Charlie Rose: ‘Touched With Fire’ (Feb. 4, 2016)  Director and writer Paul Dalio, actor Luke Kirby, and psychologist Kay Jamison discuss the movie “Touched with Fire” and the connections between bipolar disorder and creativity. (18:51) Paul does mention his use of medication and meditation, which he elaborates upon in this next video.

At a David Lynch Foundation-hosted screening of the film, Paul opened up about his own struggles with bipolar and how pivotal the practice of Transcendental Meditation has proved to be in living a happy, healthy, and creatively rich life. “TM is the difference between surviving with bipolar and thriving with bipolar. I never stopped meditating, without fail,” he says. “That’s when my doctor, Norman Rosenthal, witnessed the power of TM and was so blown away he decided to do a study on the effects of TM.” Paul was responsible for Dr. Rosenthal restarting his long-lapsed TM practice, which led to the publication of two best-selling books on the subject. Visit NORMAN ROSENTHAL, MD for details. See Thriving with Bipolar – A Conversation with Writer/Director Paul Dalio.

TODAY: Katie Holmes Discusses Role In ‘Intense’ Film ‘Touched With Fire’ (4:41)

The Washington Post: Filmmaker Paul Dalio mines his bipolar disorder for feature debut

HotSpot: TOUCHED WITH FIRE | Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Paul Dalio & Jeremy Alter Interview | February 8, 2016 (26:54)

Video of Marbling Art Animation of Starry Night and Van Gogh

Check out this amazing video on marbling art animation of Starry night and a Van Gogh self-portrait: Van Gogh on Dark Water Animation. The Turkish artist is Garip Ay, and the ancient technique of painting on water to marble paper is called Ebru.

The Unexpected Math Behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Physicist Werner Heisenberg said, “When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first.” As difficult as turbulence is to understand mathematically, we can use art to depict the way it looks. Natalya St. Clair illustrates how Van Gogh captured this deep mystery of movement, fluid and light in his work. Visit TED-Ed for more.

a new tanka: Dementia Blues

December 12, 2013

Dementia Blues
A tanka written after a holiday party at Parkview

Brain cell by brain cell
You’re disappearing from me
I’m alone again

How hard it must be for you
Disappearing from yourself

© Ken Chawkin
December 8, 2013
Fairfield, Iowa, USA

Related: An Unwanted Guest

The Curse of Dementia: On watching a loved one diminish before your eyes, poem by Ken Chawkin

Sitting with Sally: 5-haiku poem

Rage Against the Disease

Cancer stories: Greg James restored balance with Maharishi Ayurveda and TM to enjoy his life again

October 28, 2012

FAIRFIELD — October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and The Ottumwa Courier asked cancer survivors and/or family members to share their stories. A few people wrote to tell of their experiences and their stories have been running often throughout this month. The editor thanks all the people who participated. Many said they wanted others to know about the experience and to always have hope. Here’s a story from a friend of mine, Greg James, in Fairfield. I never would have guessed he had been through so much, he seems so healthy to me.

Cancer stories: Restore balance and enjoy life

October 25, 2012

“No one has ever survived this kind of cancer,” the Harvard oncologist told me back in September 1988. “It is a rare and very fast-growing form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Sloane Kettering in New York City has only seen 50 cases in the last 10 years, and no white male 37-year heterosexual has ever survived.  You are Stage 4 with complications (massive pleural effusions).”

“What are his chances of surviving?” asked my family, and the doctor would only cross his fingers.

It was very ironic that I got this cancer, as I was on a media team that was making Deepak Chopra and Maharishi Ayurveda household words. I had been in perfect vibrant health, an active hiker, then (and now).

My father was a hospital administrator and consultant. I grew up with mixed signals: the doctors were brilliant and great people, but their system limited them to drugs and they couldn’t think out of the box; they are brilliant technicians but lack training in vital areas of nutrition and bedside manner. So, I was, from the outset what Bernie Siegel (author of “Love, Medicine, and Miracles”) called a “difficult patient.” Dr. Siegel noted that the patients who take an active interest in their treatment, asking frequent questions and sometimes going against medical advice, were the ones that survive.

It was quickly found that I had a tumor the size of a fist in my throat choking me. That explained a lot! The CHOP protocol worked quickly, dissolving that tumor, and I got through tumor necrosis (the breaking up of the tumor and the spread of that material throughout the body). I was re-admitted to Mass General Hospital in Boston again for a total lack of white blood cells and put on a rescue remedy. Then, two months after my first treatment, I was in Intensive Care Unit for 12 days fighting for my life against pneumonia.

After that, consulting with various doctors outside of the cancer complex at Mass General, I decided to quit the chemo, brain radiation and spinal taps in favor of rebuilding my body with special herbs from India and a rejuvenation protocol (now offered at The Raj in Fairfield). I was totally devastated by the chemo and lack of sleep caused by the Prednizone, and couldn’t hold down food from nausea. My body was trying to throw off the “emergency medicine” and get back to some balance. The Ayurvedic treatments were designed not to cure disease but to promote good health, but they gave me what I needed most: vitality, strength and some hint of happiness.

Meanwhile, the oncologists were upset that I had taken a break from chemo, etc., and told me they had gotten approval for a bone marrow transplant from Dana Farber Institute, a procedure that would “bring me to the brink of death, and then we will re-inject your bone marrow” and I was prescribed three years of continuing chemo, etc. after the transplant. My oncologist quoted a published study and told me that three out of 23 patients had survived this type of bone marrow transplant, which angered me. “You want me to bet my life on one chance in eight? Who is on drugs here, doctor? (I didn’t continue, and saved the insurance company $300,000)”

Ten months after I started, I was back to walking without leg braces (after losing strength from the chemo), and loving life again. I was grateful to have the best of “emergency medicine” and the best of alternative medicine. For a few years after, everyone and their brother was calling me to ask me to talk to their wife or cousin or whomever about their cancer treatment. My answer included these points: realize that the surface condition of cancer is a symptom of an underlying imbalance in the mind-body connection and that this must be restored, and it could be. If your condition is terrible, by all means take allopathic medicines, but don’t be afraid to break from it to get much-needed vitality back through expert-prescribed herbs and rejuvenation therapies. Take “rasayanas,” herbal supplements that promote longevity. First of all, go to an established Maharishi Ayurveda clinic and take the rejuvenation therapy; it will promote your recovery very quickly. And practice verified techniques for improving health, namely Transcendental Meditation. Be honest about your feelings: of course you are scared, that is natural; if you aren’t scared, then somebody isn’t being honest.

People ask me, “So your cancer is in remission?” and I answer, “My health was in remission briefly, but that has been restored.” I change the emphasis because too many people fear the problem without re-defining it: cancer is an opportunity, a forced opportunity, to go deep inside, bring out the strength you need and restore balance to enjoy life.

Greg James

Fairfield

Reprinted with permission from the author


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