Epilepsy

Epilepsy

See Kerson JF, Kerson TS, Kerson LA. “The Depiction of Seizures in Film.”  Epilepsia 1999; 40: 1163-7.

See also Kerson TS, Kerson LA, “Implacable Images:  Why Epileptiform Events continue to Be Featured in Film and Television.”  Epileptic Discord.  2006; 8: 103-13.

See also Baxendale S.  “Epilepsy At The Movies:  Possession to Presidential Assassiation.  Lancet Neurol.  2003; 2:764-70.

Studies show it is still common to find classic archetypes of epilepsy, such as divine or demonic possession, madness and crime. J. Olivares Romero, Spanish Society of Neurology, 2009. http://www.elsevier.es/sites/default/files/elsevier/pdf/295/295v25n02a13150553pdf001_2.pdf

Off the Map (2011 TV series)  Episode: Smile. Don’t Kill Anyone.

A story of doctors in the jungle:  Tommy gives Sophia’s mother the medicine she will need to stop her seizures. The mom asks the medicine man if the medicine will help.  He says no, that demons get into the scar on Sophia’s face and cause the seizures.  Eventually she is given the medicine as part of a healing ritual, and the scar on her face is also addressed.

My Last Round  (Original title:  Mi Último Round) (2011) Chilean

The romance of a middle-aged gay epileptic pugilist and a young bi-sexual.

Zach, a Film About Epilepsy (2010)

Nearing the age of twenty, Zachery Smith has a severe form of epilepsy for which there is no cure. This documentary captures a day in the life of his family, his schooling and Zach’s ongoing struggles with epilepsy.

The Epileptic Camel (2010)

An exploration of the latest dance craze taking the world by storm, The Epileptic Camel.

Anything You Want (Original title:  Todo lo que tú quieras) (2010) Spanish

A mother dies of an epileptic seizure.  Her husband is overwhelmed by his newfound responsibilities as a single parent, a feeling that is made doubly distressing when his daughter, herself understandably confused and heartbroken by her mother’s absence, asks for an “artificial” mother to help her fall asleep at night.

The Exploding Girl (2009) German

On a summer break from college, a young epileptic woman struggles to balance her feelings for her fledgling boyfriend while her male friend crashes with her for the season.

Miss March (2009)

A farce.  A man wakes from a four-year coma to find that his once virginal high-school sweetheart has become a centerfold. He and his best friend decide to take a cross-country road trip in order to crash a party at the magazine’s legendary mansion headquarters.  An old girlfriend is made fun of for her epilepsy, and beats him up.  Later she appears with blood on her face, screaming that she wants to kill him.  The explanation:  She does a lap dance for him and bends down to give him head. He turns on a strobe light which triggers her epilepsy. She has a seizure and bites down on his member. He cannot get her off. He grabs a fork and repeatedly stabs her with it.

Prince John: The Windsors’ Tragic Secret (2008 TV documentary)

Afflicted from birth with epilepsy, John, the youngest of George V’s children, died in 1919 after a particularly severe seizure. Using testimonies of individuals with direct personal connections to the prince, together with new research and photographs, the documentary presents a more complete story than has ever been told before.

Watercolors (2008)

When a gifted, young artist arrives at the opening of his first New York exhibition his erotic paintings trigger memories of his first love, a troubled athlete whose depression and self-denial led to suicide. Through a series of flashbacks we see the two struggle with their mutual attraction, with the encouragement of three strong and very different women, a free-spirited art teacher, an epileptic best friend, and a recovering alcoholic.

La curación (2008 documentary)

An experiment in ethnography located in the volcanic geography of Ecuador and told through a series of conceptual narratives, including that of an epileptic revolutionary.  The film delves into understandings of health, healing, and the human body.

Par surprise(s) (2008 short) French/Swiss

A 25 year old horticulturist in the Botanical Garden of Geneva loves a girl, but dare he tell her about his epilepsy?  A seizure pre-empts his quandary.

The English Surgeon (2007 documentary)

The story of the fateful encounter of three men — Henry Marsh,one of England’s foremost brain surgeons; Igor Kurilets, his Ukrainian colleague; and Marian Dolishny, a young and poor Ukrainian from the rural west. Dolishny has a brain tumor that causes extreme epilepsy and is slowly killing him. The young man has been told that his tumor is inoperable, but Marsh believes he can save him. Doing so, however, requires that Dolishny be awake throughout the entire operation — an unforgettable scene captured by three cameras inside the operating theater.

Joy Division (2007 documentary)

A chronological account of the influential late 1970s English rock band. Whilst performing for Joy Division, Curtis became known for his quiet and awkward demeanor, as well as a unique dancing style reminiscent of the epileptic seizures he experienced, sometimes even on stage.There were several incidents where he collapsed and had to be helped off stage.

Van Gogh (1991)

Van Gogh suffered from some sort of seizures, and in one of these attack he cut off a part of his ear. Following that attack, he was admitted to a hospital, where a young intern at the hospital suggested there might be “a kind of epilepsy” involved. The attacks became more frequent by 1890, the longest and severest lasting some 9 weeks. Initial attacks of confusion and unconsciousness were followed by periods of stupor and incoherence during which he was generally unable to paint, draw, or even to write letters.  Eventually he commits suicide.  This film examines the final 67 days of Van Gogh’s life.

Control (2007)

A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23. Ian suffered from epilepsy and had no-good medication for it.

The Year of the Wolf (Original title:  Suden vuosi) (2007) Finnish

A young, beautiful, intelligent girl studying at university suffers from epilepsy.  Her university professor, tired of his uninspiring life, one day decides to abandon his wife, and children. They meet, and  their love confronts numerous taboos.

Maalaala mo kaya (1991 TV series)  Episode: Ilog Philipines

Eden suffers from epilepsy. His parents and brothers struggle in coping and taking turns of taking care of him.

Requiem (2006)

Based on the true story that inspired The Exorcism of Emily Rose. An epileptic girl suffers a breakdown during her first year at university. She seeks help from a priest who reinforces her conviction that she is possessed. The Official Selections for the Toronto International Film Festival 2006 & Seattle International Film Festival 2006

The Last King of Scotland (2006)

Based on the events of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s regime as seen by his personal physician during the 1970s.  The doctor discovers that the polygamous leader has ostracized the youngest of his three wives, because she gave birth to an epileptic son.

Khadak (2006)

A boy, who, like his father, has epilepsy, grows up on the Mongolian steppes, herding sheep, subject to fits.  Plague among the animals forces the family off their land to a city where he gets a mining job. His seizures become more frequent and bring visions in this wasteland of strip mining, factories, and rubble. He falls in with a troupe of student performers after saving the life of one of their number. As the crisis of herders without flocks deepens, he uses the epileptic visions to seek direction.

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005)

Emily Rose believes herself to be possessed by demons and undergoes an exorcism.  She dies.  The priest conducting the exorcism is accused of negligent homicide, primarily because he initiated the cessation of the girl’s epilepsy medications.  The ensuing courtroom drama considers whether Emily Rose had epilepsy and psychosis.  Based upon a 1970s documented source case.

El aura (2005) Argentinian

A quiet, cynic taxidermist, who suffers epilepsy attacks, is obsessed with committing the perfect crime.

Three Times (Original title:  Zui hao de shi guang)  (2005)

Three stories set in three times, 1911, 1966 and 2005. In the last segment, “A Time for Youth”, an epileptic singer cheats on her female lover with a male photographer.

Garden State (2004)

The film centers on a 26-year-old actor/waiter who returns to his hometown in New Jersey after his mother dies.  He meets a girl.  She invites him to her house, and he meets her mother, who inadvertently reveals that she is an epileptic. This does not stop her from changing his life.

House M.D. (2004 TV series)   Episode: Role Model

A presidential candidate vomits and collapses at a fundraiser.   Viral tests clue House to the fact that the problem stems from a childhood epilepsy treatment.

Palindromes (2004)

Aviva is an insecure twelve-year-old girl with an overwhelming desire to be a mother. She gets herself pregnant, and her parents force her to have an abortion. She runs away, and eventually finds solace in a religious household. The mother of the house takes in those that have been ousted by society. At the dinner table, we are introduced to her adopted children, including those that are epileptic.

The Lost Prince (2003 TV movie)

True story:  British monarch George V and his wife Queen Mary hide their last-born son, Johnnie, from the public, because of his epilepsy.

Julius Caesar (2002 TV series)

The young  Julius Caesar flees Rome for his life during the reign of Sulla but rises four decades later to become Rome’s supreme dictator. At one point he is captured by pirates who intend to ransom him. When the men sent with this message do not return, the pirates move to kill Caesar. Caesar bargains to fight one of them for an extra day and wins, however he then has an epileptic attack and the pirates perceive him to be worthless.  Just before they throw him into the sea, the Roman boat returns with the ransom.

Carnage (Original title:  Carnages) (2002)

After a bull dies in an arena, its remains are transported throughout Belgium, France, and Spain, where various characters cross its path, among them the child who observed the goring on television and discover she is epileptic.

Oysters at Nam Kees (Original title:  Oesters van Nam Kee) (2002) Netherlands

A young man becomes obsessed with an exotic epileptic woman.

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.  The US forces include experienced men as well as new recruits, including PFC Todd Blackburn and a desk clerk going on his first mission. When his Lieutenant is removed from duty as the result of a seizure, Staff Sergeant Matthew Eversmann is placed in command of Ranger Chalk Four, his first command.

The Brotherhood of the Wolf (Original title:  Le pacte des loups) (2001)

In 18th century France, the Chevalier de Fronsac and his Native American friend are sent by the King to the Gevaudan province to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.  A dark epileptic beauty is a peripheral character.

Lavoura Arcaica (2001)

Brazilian baroque. The young son that ran from his dominant family descends into decadence and then returnsSet in 1940s Sao Paolo, tale opens with a young man writhing in bed. The cause may be furious masturbation, epileptic seizure or some thorny spiritual rapture — all states that, we soon learn, are relevant to and easily confused by the young protagonist.

The Guardian (2001 TV series)   Episode: Sacrifice

 

Nick defends the interests of the hospital which employs surgeon Brian Olson, whose patient died in a routine operation. Brian failed to disclose his mild epileptic condition.

Happy Campers (2001)

When a summer camp director gets injured, a diverse group of college freshmen counselors take charge.  Comedy includes a girl who goes into epileptic shock at random times.

The Other Half of Me  (2001)

The story of a man who falls in love with a woman who underwent a hemispherectomy as a child.  The film charts his anxiety surrounding her seizures.  Based on the writer/director’s experiences.

My Khmer Heart (2000 documentary)

Profiles the colorful Geraldine Cox, head of the longest-running refugee center for orphans inside Cambodia. Cox’s frustrated passion for kids stems from her adopted Cambodian child, who, unbeknownst to Cox, was born with cerebral palsy, autism and epilepsy.

Urbania (2000)

A homophobic bully and two of his buddies attack the gay protagonist and rape and murder his boyfriend. The gay man seeks revenge.  As he forces the homophobic murderer to fellate a knife blade, the man collapses with an epileptic seizure.

Disappearing Acts (2000 TV movie)

A couple in the midst of a tumultuous relationship fight to stay together. The man hides a wife and children.  The woman hides her epileptic condition.

The Bone Collecctor (1999) Denzel Washington

Following an accident, a forensics expert is able only to move his head and one finger.  Fearing that seizures will leave him with irreversible cognitive impairment, he decides to commit suicide.  A serial killer mystery re-ignites his interest in life.

Lighthouse (aka Dead of the Night) (1999) UK

Shipwrecked victims are decapitated one by one by a fellow survivor, a madman with epilepsy.

Wide Awake (1998)

A 10 year old boy goes on a search for God after his grandfather dies. He is guided on his metaphorical journey by his epileptic best friend and a baseball-loving nun who teaches at his school.

Hong Se Lain Ren (1998)  China

The hero is an underground revolutionary with post-traumatic epilepsy.

…First Do No Harm (1997 TV movie)

The true story of one woman’s struggle against the narrow-minded medical establishment.  When Lori Reimuller learns that her young son has epilepsy, she first trusts the judgment of the hospital staff in how best to address it. As the boy’s health slides radically downhill, she becomes desperate. When she decides to try an alternative treatment called the Ketogenic Diet, devised long ago by a doctor from Johns Hopkins, she meets resistance.

Deceiver (1997)

A textile company heir is accused of murdering a prostitute. The murder is investigated by seasoned detective Kennesaw and his less experienced partner Braxton. The suspect  suffers from a severe form of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, which he uses throughout the film to explain his odd and possibly dangerous behavior.

The Gambler (1997)

Focuses on the gambling compulsion of 45-year-old Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  The addiction leaves him periodically bankrupt and desperate for funds. His greedy publisher pays off his debts and the author signs an agreement to deliver a new novel in 27 days. Should he fail to meet that deadline, the publisher will gain the rights to publish all his future work without further payment.  The race against time is interrupted by several crises, the most serious being an epileptic seizure that leaves Dostoyevsky bedridden and drained of energy.

The Life of Jesus (Original title:  La vie de Jésus ) (1997) French

An unemployed, uneducated, epileptic 20-year old young man lives with his mother, a café owner. The young man’s body is scarred from repeated falls from his motorcycle, falls caused by his seizures. He rides in fear of when the next one will come. He has a girl friend who works as a cashier at the supermarket, and a gang of friends on motorbikes.  When a young Arab boy foolishly tempts fate by making a play for the girlfriend, the underlying racism of the society transforms an ordinary love story into a social tragedy.

Mesmer (1997)

Dramatized account of Franz Anton Mesmer, the 18th century Austrian physician, who gave his name to “mesmerize”.  A beautiful, blind musician falls for him after her seizure at a concert.

Face-Off (1997)

One of the characters fakes a seizure as a distraction in the race to find a bomb.

Cadfael (1994 TV series) Episode: A Morbid Taste for Bones

Set in 1137. Cadfael and a deputation of monks from Shrewsbury are dispatched to Wales to recover the remains of martyred St. Winifred over the objections of the local lord and residents.Brother Cadfael is a Welshman who has been on Crusade and lived as a soldier and seaman before joining the order in middle life. One of the two monks who assists him has the “falling sickness”, which Cadfael interprets as hysteria.

The Crucible (1996)

The seizures of a group of teenaged girls starts one of the most famous witch hunts in history.

7th Heaven (1996 TV series) Episode: Choices

Eric’s former ‘apprentice preacher’ Tom arrives unannounced, accepts to stay with the Camdens but is told the church can’t afford an assistant.  In this episode,Tom confesses that he has epilepsy.

Blue Skies Are a Lie (1995)

A once-successful international photojournalist one day recorded one atrocity too many for his psyche. As a result, he has holed himself up in his second-floor Los Angeles apartment for seven years, systematically recording from the media how the human race is destroying itself, and popping pills for his various ailments, including epilepsy.  He is saved by a friendly postwoman.

Sukiyaki (1995)

Family drama about a restaurant in Japan.  The granddaughter wants to help in the restaurant, but is afraid of venturing out because of her epilepsy.

Safe (1995)

A bored California housewife begins to experience seizures.  The doctors can find nothing wrong.  She seeks help in an alternative retreat.

An Introduction to the Ketogenic Diet (1994 video documentary) narrated by Meryl Streep

Introduction to the Ketogenic Diet, a special high-fat diet used to treat seizures, as a treatment for childhood epilepsy. Provides step-by-step preparation of the meals, available options for the diet and discussions with parents and children.

PCU (1994)

A campus comedy satirizing political correctness.  Two characters pretend to have generalized convulsions.

King of the Hill (1993)

A young boy struggles on his own in a run-down motel after his parents and younger brother are separated from him in 1930s Depression-era Midwest. Among the others at the hotel is a girl who suffers intensely from epilepsy because her mother cannot afford medication.

Romper Stomper (1993)

A Neo-Nazi gang in Australia persecutes the local immigrant population.  The leader has an epileptic girlfriend.  Some of the gang sees her epilepsy as a sign of non-Aryan impurity.

The Fugitive (1993)

A convict fakes a seizure during an escape attempt leading to a train-van crash.

Capitalismo Selvagem (1993) Brazil

A Brazilian journalist has an affair with the epileptic head of a wealthy mining corporation during an environmental investigation.

Il grande cocomero (1993)  Italian

After years of medical treatment an epileptic girl is sent to a psychiatric clinic. There she finds a young psychiatrist, who notwithstanding his problematic personal life and the Italian Public Health Service’s overwhelming inefficiencies, is able to establish a relationship. Focusing therapy on her family life, they discover the nature of her disease.

The Great Pumpkin  (1993)

After many years of unsuccessful treatment for her supposed epileptic seizures, a woman meets a young psychiatrist who uses a family therapy approach.

Simple Men (1992)

A road movie about two brothers, an armed robber and a penniless student, serarching Long Island for their estranged father, an ex-baseball player turned political terrorist.  They look to women to reconcile their various needs, including a beautiful Romanian epileptic.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989 TV series) Episode: The ABC Murders  (1992)

A serial killer taunts Poirot, killing people in alphabetical order.  A travelling salesman named Alexander Bonaparte Cust has travelled to all of the murder locations on the day the crimes occurred. Cust had suffered a blow on the head during military service, and as a result is prone to blackouts, headaches and epileptic attacks. Could this seemingly innocent stranger be the killer?

JFK  (1991)

Suggests a man faked a generalized convulsion as a distraction prior to JFK’s assassination resulting in the ambulance never arriving on the scene.

Frankie and Johnny (1991)

A customer has a seizure in a restaurant, bringing together the chef and the waitress in a first aid attempt and subsequent romance.

Let Him Have It (1991)

An epileptic 19-year-old with the mental age of 11 due to a childhood head injury condemned himself to death and British legal history in the shooting of a policeman in 1952. It was with the words, “Let him have it”, argued the prosecution in the murder trial, which prompted the boy’s younger but more hardened acquaintance to shoot.

Wildflower (1991 TV movie)

A boy and his younger sister happen upon a cabin where a young, partially deaf girl with epilepsy is being kept by her abusive stepfather. The three become friends.

Final Approach (1991)

A movie in which one is not sure of anything, right up through the end. At face value, the pilot, while flying an all-plastic prototype stealth bomber, has had a seizure, possibly epileptic, triggering a mishap causing him to bail out while flying between Albuquerque, N.M., and Tonopah, Nev. Complicating recovery is that his flight was top secret, and in memory flashes his commanding officer keeps reminding him of the need to maintain secrecy.

Vampire Trailer Park (1991)

Triggered by the phrase “twin palms” a psychic suffers brief epileptic seizures which put her into contact with her dead grandmother, who offers helpful advice on the case.

Megqaville  (1990)

Set in the future, it is only possible to watch television and film in a place called Megaville.  A cop begins to have vivid hallucinatory seizures, perhaps in response to the outlawed media.

Q.E.D. (1982 TV series documentary)  Episode: The Morgan Treatment (1990)

Report on Tony Morgan, who suffered from epileptic fits until he took up the sport of weightlifting and became the youngest ever British champion.

Drugstore Cowboy  (1989)

A gang of addicts roams the country robbing pharmacies to support their habit.  In one robbery a female addict feigns a seizure to create a diversion.

Fight for Life (1987 TV movie)  Jerry Lewis

An Ohio optometrist has a six-year old daughter with epilepsy. He fights to get the FDA to approve a drug (at that time only available in England) for use in the U.S.

21 Jump Street (1987 TV series)   Episode: Just Say No! High

When there’s an outbreak of Ecstasy in a high school, Hoffs and McCann are sent to investigate.  Episode features an epileptic boy.

‘night, Mother (1986)

A middle-aged epileptic unable to hold a job or drive with a failed marriage and a drug-addicted runaway son on the wrong side of the law, can find no reason to go on living.

Promise (1986)

As promised to his mother, a man takes on his younger brother, who suffers from schizophrenia and epilepsy.  He is ambivalent about the responsibility.

Fighting Choice (1986)

A teenager’s attempts to sue his parents for the right to have “split brain” surgery in order to cure his seizures.

Lamb (1985)

Michael Lamb is a Catholic priest questioning his calling, in a Reform School in Ireland. When a young epileptic runaway is sent to the school, the two recognize each other’s kindred spirit and escape to London together. With the police on their tail and money running out, Lamb is forced to make some decisions.

History (Original title:  La Storia) (1985)  Spain

A Jewish mother conceals her identity during the Mussolini years.  She is raped and impregnated by a German soldier and bears a son with epilepsy.

Hong Kong 1941; Waiting for Dawn; Waiting for Daybreak (Original title:  Dang Doi Lai Ming) (1984)

Three characters attempt to escape from Hong Kong following Japanese take-over in 1941.  One of them is the young, attractive, wealthy merchant’s daughter, who suffers disabling seizures.

The World’s Best Men; All the King’s Men (T’en Hsia de Yi; Tienxia de Yi) (1984)

Comedy set just before the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).  The film charts the last Emperor of the preceding dynasty’s struggles with epilepsy, trying to procure treatment without revealing the disorder.  Traditionally the last emperor of any Chinese dynasty is painted as seriously flawed so he loses the “mandate of heaven” to rule.

Shilly-Shally (Original title:  Wahadelko) (1981 TV movie)

A small-scale psychological drama about an epileptic whose whole life has been affected by a youth spent in Stalinist times and his mother’s ideological commitment to Stalinism.

A Wedding (1978)

The daughter of a Louisville truck driver marries the scion of a very wealthy family.  After the honeymoon car crashes into a fuel truck and the wedding couple are believed to be dead, a quarrel breaks out between the families, seething with class resentments. One of the family members screams, “Will you all shut up? They’re dead!” and, after tearfully describing the wreckage that he saw, has an epileptic seizure.  Billed as a romantic comedy.

Diff’rent Strokes (1978 TV series)  Episode: A Special Friend

Arnold and Sam learn that their new friend, a street performer, has epilepsy. Their emotions become a ball of confusion and misconception … until someone very close to them (namely, Pearl) shares her experiences with the disorder.

Epileptic Seizure Comparison (1976)

Artist’s Statement: “Seizure Comparison is an attempt to orchestrate sound and light rhythms in an intimate and proportional space, an ongoing location wherein non-epileptic persons may begin to experience, under ‘controlled conditions’ the majestic potentials of convulsive seizure.”

1900 (original title:  Novecento) (1976) Italian

Follows the lives and interactions of two boys/men, one born a bastard of peasant stock and the other born to a land owner.  Spans from 1900 to about 1945. Focuses on the rise of Fascism, the peasants’ eventual reaction by supporting Communism, and how these events shape the destinies of the two men. In one scene, an epileptic woman is forced to drink alcohol causing a seizure.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Two of the patients have epilepsy in this story of the vindictive regime in a secure psychiatric hospital.  One refuses medication because he hates the side-effects and the other over-medicates because he fears the seizures.

A Virgin Named Mary  (Original title:  Peppino e la Vergine Maria) (1975)

Mary has epilepsy and practices folk medicine, arousing suspicion that she may be a witch.  She appears to die after a seizure, but makes a miraculous recovery and is found to be pregnant.  Banned in Italy.

The Terminal Man (1974)

Hoping to cure his violent seizures, a man agrees to a series of experimental microcomputers inserted into his brain but inadvertently discovers that violence now triggers a pleasurable response his brain.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz  (1974)

A young man with epilepsy takes a chance and becomes a driver.  A subsequent crash has devastating effects on his life and the lives of those around him.

The Exorcist (1973)

A girl with temporal lobe epilepsy is perceived to be possessed.  Her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.

Mean Streets (1973)

A small-time gangster works for his uncle in “debt-collection”.  His uncle disapproves of the girlfriend because of her epilepsy.

I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse (Original title:  J’irai comme un cheval fou) (1973)

When a woman dies, the police want to talk to her son, but he, a guilt-ridden epileptic, has left for the desert. There he comes upon an Indian who becomes his companion through his travels.

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972)

The story a a mother and her two daughters.  One of them is epileptic.

Witches of Salem:  The Horror and the Hope  (1972)

Authentic account of the 1602 Salem witch-hunt sparked by the seizures of a group of teen-aged girls.

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

A deadly virus arrives from outer space to threaten the world.  A team of scientists is drafted to save the human race, one of whom has epilepsy.  She conceals her condition with potentially dire consequences.

Laia (1971) Spain

A woman awaits the return of her husband from a sea voyage, unsure whether her lover has killed him as requested.  Depicted are her tomboy girlhood and struggle with epilepsy.

The Twelve Chairs (1970)

A rich widow declares that she has hidden the family jewels in one of twelve dining chairs.  In one scene, a character convulses on the floor while another yells, “Epilepsy, my Friends!  Epilepsy!  The same disease that struck down our own beloved Dostoevsky…Give what you can…” in order to raise money to buy back the chairs.

A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die (Original title:  Un minuto per pregare, un instante per morire (1968) Italian

When outlaw Clay McCord learns the Governor of New Mexico has offered an amnesty to all who apply for it at the town of Tuscosa, he is intrigued but suspicious. He circles the vicinity, weighing the offer and encountering other outlaws, all the while troubled by occasional “spells” resembling the epileptic fits which plagued his father.

Mouchette (1967)

Arsène, an alcoholic epileptic, fears he has killed a man with whom he had fought, and attempts to use Mouchette as an alibi to disabuse him of the blame.

Fists in His Pocket (Original title: Pugni in Tasca (1965)  Italian

A young man with epilepsy decides to kill his variously disabled family members and himself to relieve his healthy brother of the burden of looking after them all.

Othello (1965)

Othello suffers a seizure in a jealous rage.

Cleopatra (1963)

Historical epic. The triumphs and tragedy of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra.  When she sees Caesar suffer what the ancients called “the falling sickness”: an epileptic fit, she knows he has that weakness.

Curse of the Living Corpse (1963)

A man who suffers catatonic seizures is terrified of being buried alive during one of his attacks.  His fears are ignored by his family so he murders them, one by one.

TheIdiot (1959)

Dostoyevsky was, perhaps, the most famous epileptic in history and epilepsy is arecurring theme in his writing  Prince Myshkin in The Idiot reflects Dostoyevsky’s own experiences of epilepsy. Myshkin is portrayed as a Christ-like figure whose emotions and intellect have been arrested by his illness. He is ostracized by those around him, partly because of his illness (the “idiot disease”).

The Idiot (1958) USSR

Dramatization of Dostoyevsky’s classic.  The title character has epilepsy.  See Idiot (1959) above and Idiot (1951) below.

The Brothers Karamazov (1958)

The youngest Karamazov brother suffers seizures.  He murders his father and feigns a seizure to create a credible alibi.

The Dark Wave (1956 documentary short)

Examines the life of a young girl afflicted with severe epilepsy. Details parental and friend reactions, and both physical and psychological treatments.

Disneyland (1954 TV series)  Episode: A Fighting Choice

Bright teenager afflicted with epilepsy sues his parents for the right to have “split brain” surgery in order to cure his seizures.

The Egyptian (1954)

In eighteenth-dynasty Egypt, two young physicians have the misfortune to witness Pharaoh while he is having a seizure.  At first condemned to death for witnessing the forbidden they are pardoned for trying to help him.

The Winning Team (1952) Ronald Reagan

Baseball great Grover Cleveland develops post-traumatic epilepsy following a head injury during a match.  He turns to drink.  With the help of wife and friends he stages a successful comeback.

The Idiot (1951) Japan

A Japanese adaptation of Dostoevsky’s classic.  A former soldier is branded an idiot because of his post traumatic epilepsy. See Idiot (1959) and (1958)above.

Night Unto Night (1949) Ronald Reagan

Story about a scientist who has developed epilepsy and rents a house on an isolated stretch of Florida beach to be alone and do his research free from observation. He rents from a lovely widow.

Stairway To Heaven (A Matter Of Life And Death) (1946)  David Niven

A neurologically accurate movie (see http://www.aan.com/elibrary/neruologytoday/?event=home.sh…) based upon real life events:  A 21 year old WWII Royal Airforce bomber pilot jumps without a parachute from a hit plane, falls into water, and survives, but experiences temporal lobe seizures with olfactory hallucinations.  As his life hangs in the balance, he tries to persuade the angels of heaven that he should live.  Each angel is associated with a simple partial seizure and a complex partial seizure. The hallucinations are diagnosed to be triggered from an earlier head injury, and to have resulted in chronic adhesive arachnoiditis, requiring brain surgery. The film’s neurosurgeon is modeled after the famous Hugh Cairns, an early champion of cycling helmets, a need shown by the death of one of his own head injury patients, Lawrence of Arabia.

Dr. Kildare’s Crisis (1940)

Nurse Mary Lamont is excited about her brother’s impending visit. The young man’s strange behavior puzzles Dr. Kildare who believes he may be hiding a serious illness. Kildare, without examining Mary’s brother, decides he has epilepsy on the basis that the brother sometimes seems to hear noises no one else hears. This makes Mary afraid to marry Kildare, for fear of having him end up with a sick wife or epileptic children. The New York Medical Society wrote a letter in protest about the way epilepsy is treated in the film.

Snow White (1937)

A young princess escapes from her wicked stepmother with the aid of seven dwarfs.  One of the dwarfs, Dopey, has a nocturnal seizure.

To What Red Hell (1929) UK

A pimp with epilepsy kills a prostitute during a seizure.

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3 comments on “Epilepsy

  1. Pingback: Epilepsy In Movies and Television | Epilepsy Talk

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