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Media Review : Sybil (Film)

By Shadow&

Just watched the movie Sybil for the first time, and have mixed feelings about it.

Acting wise, we think Sally Field did a very good job. We've admired her work before. She turned up on ER the other season to play Abby's (Moira Kierney) bipolar mother. Her talents at voices and mimicry meant that she could act the different members of Sybil's system quite well, in particular, Vicky and Mary.

Script-wise, we thought it left a bit to be desired. We found it over-dramatic and one dimensional. While I can understand the necessity of amalgamating the Peggys into just one character, I don't understand why Peggy was portrayed as being forever mumbling almost incoherently and hysterical, hiding up shelves and under pianos, where the book describes the Peggys as having quite lively, mischevious personalities, forever 'escaping' boring situations, and travelling all over for a 'lark'. Perhaps it was to facilitate the common idea that 'alters' have only one 'function'.

This would also explain why Vicky was portrayed as being the one who liked being with 'people', Vanessa was described as the 'keeper of the music' (though they say at one point that she is the one who is friends with the son of 'Richard', the mostly fictitious love interest) and Marcia is supposedly the one out to kill them all because she felt they deserved it for hating their mother.

Though one of the boys is mentioned (Mike), they never describe any 'purpose' for their existence. Indeed, despite a couple of mentions, the boys never come up at all, in therapy, or at the 'front'.

It seems they've just taken a big steamroller to Sybil's whole system to make them all one dimensional, and only the product of what was percieved to be their main issues. So, instead of getting a view of what Sybil's system was described as, you just get a parade of extremes.

A lot of incidents were crammed in but never explained, Sybil's recurring nightmare about the kittens and Peggy's fetish for breaking glass and windows being two examples. They probably would have done better to put some in and explain them fully, rather than leaving a lot of things unexplained.

So, if you watch it, watch it for the acting talents of Sally Field, and her ability to portray an array of different characters, all with different voices and body language. If you want to get a real idea of the different members of Sybil's system, read the book.

And please, don't take Sybil as scripture. Different multiple systems are as different to each other as individuals are different to each other. Some function well, others not so well. Some resemble aspects of what Sybil's system had, others are galaxies apart. Rather than presume, just ask. Most multiples I know take an open mind as a refreshing breath of air, amidst this current climate of suspicion, disbelief, presumption and accusation. Someone willing to listen to who they are rather than tell them what they should be makes a pleasant change.

Ed. Note: This is a review of the original release of Sybil. A four-hour version was shown on television about twelve years ago, and occasionally turns up for sale on eBay. Rumor has it that this is the version that will be released on DVD, but we'll believe that when we see it.

You can write to Pavilion at pavilion@ karitas . net. Back to the library
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