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A movie character’s self-destructive mental disorder has never appeared so dangerous and stressful for people. Alex’s curls are beautiful but messy — Pauline Kael called her a “Medusa” and her stare turns Dan into anxiety personified.Through Alex, an extensive number of irrational anxieties are thus expressed in an inflammatory manner: the destructive power of desire outside marriage, the irrationality of feminists, the violence that the mentally ill can perpetrate and the burden of their possible suicidal tendencies for the people around them. Her monochromatic black or white wardrobe suggests her mood swings, from childish giddiness to unrestrained rage. In a harrowing moment of despair, Lyne shows Alex sitting on the floor of her apartment beside a lamp that she switches on and off repeatedly, staring into space while listening to the aria from (an opera about a character who yearns for transformation).
Don’t have affairs, the film warns, because the type of women who do are driven crazy by the independence they find in their economic and sexual liberation.
Her now famous exclamation, “I’m not gonna be ignored, Dan” can be understood as the demand of a feminist asking for her voice to be heard, and Close’s brilliantly strident delivery makes her sound like an angry and tired housewife asking for respect: she is her lover’s escapist fantasy object no longer.
Suicide is thus not taken seriously and made repulsive, presented as an ultimate act of horror rather than an opportunity for empathy.
Moreover, after Dan literally saves her life out of pity (and to avoid having her death on his conscience), Alex goes quiet for a while, but then returns more vengeful than ever, and the empathy that one may have developed for her is foiled.
Dan and Alex’s hookup occurs when Dan’s wife Beth (Anne Archer) is out of town with their six-year-old daughter Ellen; when Beth returns, Alex doesn’t back off but ramps up her attempts to get in touch with Dan, knowingly putting him in danger of being discovered.
Alex cannot accept that Dan could at once desire her and refuse to leave his wife and daughter, and so she takes matters into her own hands. ” exclaims Dan after she shows up uninvited at his office.Here, it is as if the screenwriter is speaking directly through him.presents Alex as a contradiction and accusatorily logical (she’s right about all of Dan’s lies and evasions), but also as a deeply, monstrously irrational woman.The most evident tension explored by the film is, indeed, that between desire and danger.Although Dan’s impulsive two-timing is not admirable, Alex’s rising frustration at being abandoned by her lover — a man she knew was married — and her increasingly violent attempts at getting his attention add up, in the script’s moral calculus, to her being the bad guy — or at least more so.With its hanging carcasses, the neighbourhood makes the idea of the “pleasures of the flesh” literal, but also associates Alex with death.“Most people with mental illness are not violent,” Close explained at the 2013 National Conference on Mental Health held at the White House, “and it is immoral to keep that [stigma] perpetrated.” If that weren’t disturbing enough, the film dives into even murkier waters by having Alex also attempt suicide, and portrays that event in ambiguous ways.While Dan visits her to say a last goodbye, she — and the director — hides her bloody wrists from him (and the audience) and starts kissing Dan forcefully until he notices the blood.Her self-harm is presented as yet another dramatic attempt to manipulate Dan into caring for her.In the context of Alex’s destructive behaviour, however, her feminism is ridiculed, demonised and made terrifying.In a 2013 interview with CBS News, Glenn Close explained that although she consulted two psychiatrists to prepare for the role, “never [once] did a mental disorder come up.” Since the film’s release, Alex’s behaviour has indeed been attributed by psychology experts to her suffering from erotomania, a delusional condition also known as de Clérembault’s syndrome, where the person affected believes that another person is secretly in love with them and can find proof of that affection in everything that person does.