Electric Malady review; life under a blanket for man who fears ‘electrosenstivity’
maandag, 29 mei 2023 - Categorie: Verhalen
This tactful documentary follows William, living in a tinfoil-covered cabin and covered in a blanket. But is there anything behind his condition?
William lives in a pretty wooden cabin deep in a Swedish forest. It looks like any other cabin, except William has covered it with aluminium mosquito netting. Inside, his bedroom is like a silver cave: walls and floor are lined with industrial-looking tinfoil bubble wrap. And then there is William himself – covered from head to toe in a white blanket. He looks like a kid dressed up as a ghost for Halloween. Except there are no cutouts for his eyes: holes would let in the electromagnetic radiation. So William lives mostly in darkness.
This idea that modern life could be making us ill, that there might be health dangers caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields given off by mobile phones and wifi technology, was big in the 00s. The mainstream media took it semi-seriously. Panorama even did a wifi special episode in 2007, which the BBC’s own complaints unit criticised for being misleading. The issue has since dropped off the radar but there are still people who believe that they are suffering from electrosensitivity.
Film-maker Marie Lidén tackles the subject with tact and sympathy. William, 40, thinks he developed the condition while working at a library, after new technology was installed. His girlfriend at the time also worked there, and she got the headaches first. (One of the saddest moments comes when he explains that she is now married with kids.) He lives a hermit existence; he is in the wilderness but rarely steps outside into nature. His lovely mum and dad visit with cake on his birthday, not exactly pretending everything is normal, but making the best of it. The medical profession is sceptical about electrosensitivity, but there is a doctor who comes to see William who’s convinced that it is real.
Of course, what you want to know is whether William’s illness is psychosomatic. Lidén gently explores this difficult question with William and his family. I believe William when he says he used to love life and being around people. He says he had a happy childhood. His sister agrees: “It was fairytale,” she says. A psychologist told him he must be burying trauma; he racks his brain for something, anything.
What Lidén shows is that whether the cause of his illness is physical or psychological, William’s suffering is very real. Her film treats him without judgment and does not patronise him. It’s a sad and painful documentary, though it lets in one or two funny moments, such as when William reveals he has accidentally set fire to his blanket a few times while cooking.
- Electric Malady is released on 3 March in UK cinemas.
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