Before he gripped the cinematic world with his realistic and harrowing depiction of the Salvadoran Civil War and Vietnam war with the movies Salvador and Platoon…
Before he cast his views on the cold-hearted world of Wall Street where Gordon Gekko declared that “Greed is Good”…
You might be surprised to hear that the director, Oliver Stone turned his hand (pun-intended) to a psychological horror film that would sit perfectly well in the mind of Stephen King.
Stone’s sophomore outing in the director’s chair of a feature film production would cast Michael Caine as his lead. Caine by this stage had already established himself as the charismatic cocksure characters on-screen, most notably in the espionage or crime movies. Here Caine is equally as enigmatic as the brash, hard-headed comic book artist, Jon Lansdale. As we meet Lansdale, it is clear that his mannerisms have caused friction between his wife, Anne (Andrea Marcovicci) and daughter, Lizzie and that the strain may be too great. Anne is already hinting at a temporary separation and that she is thinking of taking Lizzie back to New York and leaving Lansdale in the country to continue with his work. The subject causes a heated argument between the two whilst driving in their car, which in turn leads to a horrific accident where Lansdale’s right hand is severed.
In this one fleeting moment, a sudden change of character from both parties develops. Lansdale at first softens, his dominant male pride and ego is squashed and he is lost and vulnerable without the one tool that gives him power in his life… the hand from which he draws and creates and inflicts his amour propre into the world. Anne on the other…hand (ahem), equally becomes withdrawn and submissive as she feels guilty for what she has inflicted upon Jon.
It’s not long however before the cracks begin to show once more as Lansdale becomes more erratic and uncontrollable with his behaviour. Lansdale is driven by fits of jealousy over Anne’s relationship with her yoga instructor and this mental breakdown consumes him to the point that he is fired by his agent and starts to have apparent delusions manifested around the hand of his former appendage. But is this a figment of his broken mind or has the hand actually formed a life of its own and is now wreaking havoc on the world that surrounds Lansdale?
Lansdale and Anne go through a separation, leading Lansdale to retreat to teach at a small community college, but is left to his own deranged and worrying thoughts, spiralling deeper into a world of torment.
Knowing what we know now about Stone’s fascination with the breakdown of the human mind when inflicted with a significant trauma, The Hand becomes incredibly significant in his canon of work as a director. Some may scoff at the ridiculousness of the subject and its delivery having a severed hand roaming around and killing people, but at its heart, is a powerfully poignant insight into the lengths and breadths that mankind will go to when subjected to a great deal of physical or psychological pain that sends them to the brink of humanity. This precipice is a tightrope between sanity and psychosis. When exposed to such drastic measures, is it really possible to claw our way back to stability? Or is the trauma too great a burden to bear?
- Saul Muerte