Movie essay – The Soloist

The movie of my choice to review was The Soloist which tells the true story of Nathaniel Ayers who is a gifted homeless man that has schizophrenia and his friendship with a L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopes that purse him to write a story about him. Ayes is a gifted musician who attended Julliard but had to drop out due to his mental state. The relationship that develops between Lopez and Ayes shows the many faces of the disorder of mental illness related to paranoid schizophrenia. I will discuss Nathaniel Ayes’ symptoms and give examples of certain situations where the symptoms of schizophrenia where displayed. Nathaniel Ayes was homeless and lived on the streets in Los Angeles, California and plays his two string violin. Lopez is in the square of the Times building by the statue of Beethoven and become intrigued with the beautiful sound of music being played. He realizes that this music was coming from a man who looked homeless, wearing dirty clothes that didn’t match, but he was playing beautiful music on a violin with two strings. As he spoke to Nathaniel, Nathaniel talked about Beethoven music with a great admiration and love as he played it. He seems obsessed with the musical genius of Beethoven as he himself showed a great gift of being a musical genius as he played a broken down two string violin instruments in his possession. Ayes is very kind, and well-mannered but it is evident that he had some mental issues. Ayes had very erratic speech, repeating Lopez name and number that Lopez says, as well as spells it out, he apologize for his poor appearance and indicates that he has had some setbacks in his life and hangs his head in shame. Lopez believes that Ayes would be a good topic for a newspaper articles. From this point they develop a rapport and Lopez tries to get Ayes off of the street. He took Nathaniel to the music store and was in awe with the response to the Ayes gave being around those instruments. Lopez took him back for a second trip to the music store and purchase some new instruments for him to play as well as a music lesson book for Nathaniel. Ayes carried those instruments (violin, cello, and trombone) around on this shopping cart that held all of his belongs and he refused to let out of his sight.
Ayes throughout the movies displayed symptoms of Axis 1 schizophrenia. Many of the symptom include auditory, hallucinations, logia, and delusions of control, delusions, of persecution, delusion of thought broadcasting, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized behavior (DSM Criteria), social withdrawal, avolition, affective flattening, and outburst which I will talk about later. He also show sign of schizophrenia with his crudely embellished outfits, that makes him look strange or indifferent and his obsession with his wagon that holds his instruments. Nathaniel would displayed awkward facial gestures and there is no eyes to eye contact. He spoke a lot about himself uncontrollably and as well as his belief about God, while and rumbling and mumbling back and forth not making any sense.
The origins of Nathaniel’s symptoms started to manifest itself at an early age with his obsession with the music of Beethoven’s music. At a period where most young teens interact with kids his own age, Nathaniel preferred being alone withdrawing from his family and friends while retreating to his basement to be alone to play his instruments and Beethoven’s music. Nathaniel’s mother would give him compliments and praise about his talent but Nathaniel would just laugh. He began to have hallucinations that increased first begin noticed when he sees a flaming car going down the street outside his window. He keeps these incident to himself rather than telling anyone. His delusion increases when he feels his sister is trying to poison him and he forces her to get the food she has brought him because she was concerned about her little brother being downstairs in the basement obsessed with his music and not eating. He still didn’t get any help so when Nathaniel goes on to the prestige school of music Julliard, he is faced with the pressure and performing and starts to hallucinates, sees flashing lights and hears voices in his head. This leads to him taking a break from Julliard and eventually dropping out of school. Ayes soon lost everything and became homeless. He refused to take medication and believe that he was sick which only increases the mental disorder.
Ayes delusional schizophrenia symptoms of persist as he felt that since Lopez was telling him everything to do and help him that Lopez was his god. Nathaniel refuses to listen to Lopez when he tell him that he is wrong in his thinking. He also becomes outrages with his music teacher when his teacher questions him on his comment about his god and tells him, “I know who my god is” and become very outraged. He tells Lopez that he know who his god is and Nathaniel say to him, “I love God. I love you” and Lopez tries to squash this notion but Ayes is very persistent in his belief. He also tells him that his music is a string to tie all of his listeners together in the street and this is why has did not live inside, he did not want to lose his interconnectedness which seem to be so fundamental to his life. Some of Lopez first encounters with Ayes when he saw him stop traffic to clean the street by picking up one cigarette bud, Lopez spent the night in his corner under the tunnel. Ayes starts to recite the Bible saying “Lead us not into temptation. For thine is kingdom, the power and the glory forever, and ever….I hope you sleep well, Mr. Lopez. I hope the whole world sleeps well”. This show Nathaniel feeling of spiritual interconnectedness that is major in his life and give his life some meaning.
Ayes hallucinations intensifies throughout the movies. Ayes became immersed with playing the cello when thing goes wrong as a way to deal with the chaotic environment or any problems that occurred. He was growing more psychotic every day and becoming very disturbed with the voices in his head. The voices help to keep him down by helping him to believe that he cannot do better. He hears the voices tell him, “You will never get out”, Hide, and hide from the voices! “There’s no hiding Nathaniel, Whiteness, whiteness…” As there hallucination increase they make his world a more terrifying environment to be in. These were really evident when he was in a crowd of people. When he was at Julliard he heard these voices as he looked out and saw all those people, again when Lopez and the music teacher got him a chance to play in a concert at Disney Concert Hall, Nathaniel began seeing the flashing lights and hearing the voices and panic and ran away. Even though he was going through these events Nathaniel refuse to believe that he was mentally ill and needed any help or medication.
Schizophrenia is defined as a syndrome and a psychotic disorder with a number of impairment in character tics of reality, disturbance of perception and thought experienced as hallucinations, delusions, hearing voices, seeing things that are not there, and paranoia that last more than six months. According to Feldman, “The symptoms displayed by persons with schizophrenia may vary considerably over time, and people with schizophrenia show significant differences in the pattern of their symptoms even when they are labeled with the same diagnostic category” (Feldman, 2005: 552). It is a mental disorder that makes I that makes it hard to tells the difference between real and unreal experiences, think logically, have a normal emotional response and to act normally in most social situations. Is has a variety of symptoms. Its onset usually starts in a person’s late teen years to the early twenties and one percent of the total population has this mental disorder. This goes all the way back to 5BC were Hippocrates have had details descriptions of mental disorders such as mania, melancholia, dementia, delirium and hysteria ( ). Detailed descriptions where introduced in the nineteenth century which described the characteristics and early onset of symptoms of schizophrenia by Kraepelin. He gave us term which are unique to the early destruction and mental detortioan patterns of the diease. Bleudelr called schizophrenia as the splitting apart of the mind referring to the fact that the mind no longer functions as a whole, with things such behavior, emotion and intellect working as one together. Many see delusions and fantasies supersede rational thought. “As a consequence delusion, fantasies, wishes, needs, and emotions rather than intentions and logic control thoughts and (Sheen 4)”. Many schizophrenia experience paranoia have their minds control by this mental disorder. Many patients with this mental disorder can focus their attention of what they should. They become withdrawn and unresponsive to their surroundings and became withdrawn. At first they may seem tense, or have some trouble with their sleeping or unable to concentrate. They may even become withdrawn and have trouble socially making and keeping friends. They start off with being paranoid about something small or someone, and have a hard time separating reality from the fantasy they now live in. This mental state grown into a but this grows into a much larger problem until they have troubles actually function the in real world because of physical, mental emotional or financial issue they start to face. It makes it impossible for them to hold a job or in the case of Ayes stay in school and ended up homeless and on living on the street. When Lopez got him an apartment Nathaniel preferred being on the street. He heard so many different voices and felt that someone was after him. When he had the television on he heard a baby cry and Nathaniel felt he himself was being hurt. He preferred being on the street because he felt connected to that environment. This movie shows how this mental disorder can change a person life and with Ayes it turned his life upside down. Even though he was a gifted musician was unable to use this gift that he was born with.
There are different categories of symptoms for schizophrenia which are positive, negative, cognitive and depressive and other mood symptoms Nathanial Ayes display many of the these symptoms which had built up from the onset over time. The positive symptoms are called psychotic symptoms and are considered to be delusions, hallucinations, bizarre behavior, and paranoia. There may be a range of positive symptoms rather than them having just one. A person may suffers from a period paranoia or religious period and it may not be a clear distinction between them but an overlapping of them. As in the case of Ayes he suffered from hallucinations which takes the form of visual where he was sees things that wasn’t really there; auditory hallucinations where he was hearing voices that really upset him. He experiences symptoms of delusions of things that did not correspond to the real world in which he was living such as colour symbolism that he saw in the flaming car and the flashing lights when playing in the concerts. Ayes has religious delusion in which he profess his belief in in god in Lopez and his interconnectedness with his strings and music for the people. His paranoia emerged when he felt people thought he was mentally sick when he kept saying “I am not sick”, his thinking that his sister was trying to poison him when she was just trying to make sure he ate. When Lopez was trying to help him and get him to seek help with legal guardianship, Nathaniel’s belief that there was nothing wrong with him. He was outraged when Lopez or any talked about medication or therapy for him. He had a violent outburst which did not come often, but when Lopez wanted him to get help and asked him to sign some papers without explaining to him what the papers said, Nathaniel became outraged he saw the word schizophrenia. He felt betrayed by Lopez and wanted him to leave his presence. Nathaniel attacked Lopez and told him “I do not have a schizophrenic mind”, then he slaps Lopez and tells him, “I do not go where you say go, I go where I say go, you don’t put me away Mr. Lopez”. Nathaniel felt that Lopez betrayed him and he wanted nothing more to do with him. Cognitive Symptoms that Ayes display were shown when Nathaniel in his inability to function in school and maintain a job. Nathaniel was able to take care of his daily functions even though he may have dressed and looked outside of the norm with white powder on his face, jacket that made him look like Uncle Sam or a clown. He had trouble paying attention to details and focusing on things that were being said to him and would wonder off on to another subject or conversation.
Nathaniel showed symptoms of thought disorder when he would be in middle of a sentence and unable to find the correct word to go with the thought he was trying to relay and he would just start to ramble. Many times in talking to Lopez , Nathaniel would show disorganized dimension of his disorder when he ramble, would lose his train of thought during a conversation, jumping from one topic to the next and many time give answers to somethings that was not even related. He would go off on tangents talking about many irrelevant details in the conversation. Even though Ayes did seem to be well manner, kind, and musical genius which is what intrigued Lopez. His symptoms of grandiose delusions is portrayed with his obsession with Beethoven and belief that it was his cause to use this gift to be the spiritually connectedness to the other homeless people to hold them together with his music as his purpose for being in this life. His main focus in life was his music, this was the only thing that held Nathaniel together because he felt his grand destiny in life to be great like Beethoven.
The negative symptoms that Nathaniel displays started with social withdrawal when he was a kids. Nathaniel would rather stay in the house in the basement and play his instruments rather than interaction with his peers. To him he felt more comfortable being consumed with the music of Beethoven rather that social interaction with other family or friends. As he got older he thought nothing about being by himself being lost playing his violin, cello or musical instruments. His friendship with Lopez was out of the ordinary for him but he looked at Lopez a someone special in his life. Ayes was even estranged from his only sister since had not seen or talked to her in years. When they met after ten years of no communication Lopez brought her to see him, they had no eye contact, body contact with her and very little spoken communication between them. Ayes sister indicated that he once was a person who was neat and clean and never had not even a hair out of place and dressed accordingly. She was quite shock to see him one day when he was picked up with his clothes all out of place and hair not comb. He showed signs of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia apathy (avolition disorder) where a Nathaniel lost interest in things that use to be important to them. Family, friends, school, or anything other than his music and Beethoven was not what stimulated his world. His only way of being interconnected was through his music and this was his way of staying in touch with the world. Nathaniel would show negative symptoms of alogia when he had difficulty in speaking. He would at time apologize to Lopez and tell him that he had some hard times in his life. He would give repetitive and brief answers to questions when asked things. Nathaniel showed the negative symptom of affective flattening in his emotional expressions. .Nathaniel was very straight forward, he spoke in a monotone voice and you never seen him laugh. He would look as though he was looking straight through you and had poor eye contact and very little body language displayed. He at times had some violent outburst such as when Lopez wanted him to get help and asked him to sign some papers but when Nathaniel realize they referred to him as schozphrenzic and got outraged and wanted to distanced himself from the person whom he had trusted.

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