‘Hysteria’ (2011) is a surreal and feminist film, disguised as costume drama. It is mostly the uplifting tale of an unlikely pair falling in love (played by Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal), one logical and the other reaptedly accused of being ‘hysterical’. Yet it also tells the (bizarre but apparently true) story of how the electric vibrator was invented as a cure for hysteria, which used to be a recognisable condition.
Hysteria was a catch-all diagnosis, in the late 1800- early 1900s, used to catergorise women who didn’t fit into societal rules of the time. Until the electric vibrator was invented, the film seems to suggest that the cure for Hysteria was ‘massaging’ the female genitals, basically masturbating them to orgasm. The film depicts this in a tasteful way with a hilarious montage resulting in Hugh Dancy’s hand having a strain injury. It is this injury that then leads him, with the help of an inventor friend obsessed with electricity, to invent the vibrating dildo.
Overall ‘Hysteria’ manages to pull off being a mixture of comedy, peroid drama, romance, biography, and using these aspects to become a valuable piece of film with a definate feminist message.
Next Friday I will be writing a review of ‘The Hunt’ (2012) starring Mads Mikkelsen
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