102 minutes, U.S.A., 1980, Colour, 35mm

Based on a novel by Paddy Chayefsky (Network), Ken Russell’s Altered States stars William Hurt in his feature debut as psychology professor Edward Jessup, who uses himself as guinea pig for a series of experiments on states of consciousness. Combining a newly discovered and incredibly potent hallucinogen with sensory deprivation has the unexpected side-effect of also transforming his physical state, causing him to devolve into Man’s earliest state, to the horror of his loving wife Emily (Blair Brown). The hallucinatory scenes are as genuinely surreal as one would expect from Russell, juxtaposing moments of beauty with terrifying imagery for an unforgettable experience. (Notes by Kevin Coyne.)

This film is screening as part of Drugs, the second of our three-month season dedicated to excess, presenting examples of how cinema has taken on sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.


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