Fisher King was a 1991 movie that starred Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges and was directed by Terry Gilliam. The movie provided a unique insight into the world of abnormal psychology. It depicted accurate per trails of a few psychological disorders and psychosis that were brought on by a single stressor for both of the leading roles as well as a plethora of disorders by lesser characters brought on by life. Neither Williams nor Bridges earned grandiose Hollywood awards for their roles and the movie itself did not rake in billions, but it does serve as a very good example of just how delicate human nature is and what can happen to each and every one of us without a moment's notice. At the time of the stressor in this movie, Bridge's character was on top of his game in the world of radio and was about to 'add a body to the voice.' The story also showed William's character as just some average normal guy going about his life when a terrible event changed everything. The plot entails a radio 'shock jock' Jack Lucas, played by Bridges, becoming completely guilt ridden after one of his listeners took one of Lucas's self absorbed narcissistic tirades to the next level and actually killed a bunch of 'yuppies' and then himself in a New York City dinner bar. Later in the movie, we meet Parry, played by Robin Williams. Parry is a homeless man who Jack discovers lost his wife during that same dinner bar shooting. They each are searching for something and they use each other to find it.
There are two reactions to the same event being demonstrated by the main actors in this movie. Prior to the shooting, Jack is portrayed as a radio talk show host who probably thinks a little too much of himself and his own opinions. He is smart and affluent as demonstrated by his show, using a limousine after work, his luxurious apartment and his flashy clothing. But he is not a nice guy. He has an opportunity to help the poor early on when a homeless man knocks on his limo window and Jack either feels a few quarters could never help this low life or that the low life may not be worth saving.
But the movie shows quite clearly that when Jack discovered from the news that he was actually the root cause of a mass shooting, his life quickly spirals out of control to a point where in an alcohol stupor he eventually attempts to end his life by jumping into a freezing river. Prior to the shooting, Jack demonstrated major symptoms of a typical narcissistic personality type disorder, but he completely reinvented himself in a negative way by becoming a self absorbed individual suffering from situational depression, substance abuse, and isolationism most likely brought on by a sense of guilt.
Parry, Jack finds out, was just an ordinary school teacher who lived in an apartment with his wife and they were having a night out at the dinner bar the night of the shooting. The killer shot Parry's wife to death right in front of Parry but he survived. The shooting, shock, trauma, survivor's guilt and grief all combined to cause him to lose his foothold on normalcy. Parry was required to spend a year in a locked facility where he did not speak and was later released back into society with what appeared to be symptoms of schizophrenia, events with psychogenic fugue states, blatant psychotic episodes and severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Parry actually had an apartment but his landlord permitted him to live in the basement of the same building in the boiler room so technically he was not homeless, but he lived a life that was consistent with a homeless individual.
Major Depressive Disorder, main diagnosis DSM IV
Jack showed five or more of the necessary DSM IV symptoms over the course of a three-year period after the shooting which most likely confirmed that he was suffering from situational Major Depressive Disorder. Jack was clearly in a depressed mood most of the time and also demonstrated periods where he was tearful, his girlfriend pointed out that he had lost interest and pleasure in most activities, he had a severe sense of worthlessness and excessive guilt, a full suicide attempt with a specific plan to carry out the act.
Narcissistic DSM IV, secondary diagnosis
Jack originally showed signs of a narcissist as demonstrated by the five indicators from the DSM IV. Jack certainly had a grandiose sense of self-importance, he fantasized about his own unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty. He believed that he was special and had a sense of entitlement, and was extremely arrogant.
Schizophrenia, main diagnosis DSM III
Parry showed various symptoms of schizophrenia such as altered thought, perception, emotion and behavior. The symptoms identified by the DSM-III-R concur that this was what he was most likely suffering from. He thought that others could read his thoughts through thought broadcasting and that his thoughts were being placed in his head through thought insertion, he thought other beings or little people were controlling him and his actions, he was delusional, and had other loose associations with regular poverty of content. He had visual and auditory hallucinations, bizarre responses to his environment and overexcited activity, inadequate self-initiated behavior, he demonstrated an inability to meet objectives and complete tasks, he was clingy and he had an obvious decline from his highest level of functioning achieved prior to his current situation.
Match behaviors to disorders
Jack was sad and felt a great deal of guilt about the shooting. By no means did he mean to create the situation that brought him down. In Jack's case, he began to self-medicate his inner feelings of depression through alcohol abuse, probably drug abuse and he moved out of his nice luxury apartment into a more dependent role where he lived with a girlfriend, played by Mercedes Ruehl, who's character had some co-dependency issues of her own. Jack actually met Parry immediately following his suicide attempt that would have been successful and was only thwarted by some punk kids with murderous mental issues of their own. They were there to literally burn Jack, or anyone they found, to death with a gasoline bum burn. Jack never loses his underlying narcissistic self-absorption during his depression as demonstrated by how he looks down on video store customers, Parry and even the girlfriend who he is living with.
Throughout the movie, Jack consistently demonstrates feelings of guilt for his part of the shootings. Because of this guilt, he actually adopts Parry in a sense of making himself physically better by curing or at least fixing what is broken in Parry. For example, as Parry tries to show Jack where the Holy Grail he seeks is kept, Jack literally says to Parry, 'you can get a job' implying that normalcy is a matter of choice for Parry and that with Jack's help, the normalcy can easily be achieved. This theme plays out and eventually, by helping Parry, some of the underlying narcissism and depression do begin to fade. The cause and effect of dealing with Parry's mental issues help Jack through new stimuli and daily excitement. Jack eventually fixes his own situational depression and narcissism through directed action. The act of not lifting his girlfriend's bra strap later in a restaurant for example demonstrated that his tolerance level had increased.
Throughout the movie, Parry gives signs of his condition. There was a time prior to the shooting where he was a normal run of the mill school teacher. That school teacher's psyche continuously tried to come through to the surface of Parry's world. For example, when Jack was trying to remind Parry of who he was in the past, Parry hallucinates about a mystical Red Knight's presence. In an excited rant where he ends up being hit by a cab, Parry chases the antagonist hallucination into and around Central Park. Each time that the transition of leaving his current delusional state makes its way to the surface, Parry sees the Red Knight. The Red Knight showed himself again when Parry was recollecting a seminar he had attended prior to his current state and which reminded him of that old him. Parry also had many episodes where he clearly was having conversations with imaginary little people who provided him with a new goal to become a savior of the world. His quest to recover the Holy Grail might have been a symbolic representation of the wife that he was unable to save in the bar shooting.
His quest to save the world actually was the reason that he even met Jack. Jack was being attacked by the toughs and Parry and a band of homeless heroes saved him. Throughout his psychosis however, Parry seemed to be fully aware of his place in society. Parry may actually have been stalking Jack for quite some time because he knew…