This was a tough movie to watch. I first saw it when I was nineteen years old, and it’s amazing how many details I remembered upon seeing it years later–the buttonhook, the crayola in the wheat bin, and those terrifying cat dreams and drawings. I think it was a visual scarification that took place because it was the images that I remembered, not words.
Sybil makes me marvel at the resilience of the human mind. Rather than committing suicide or becoming a broken-down catatonic human being, which one would think would happen as the result of such unimaginable abuse, this woman’s mind divided and compartmentalized into different people so she could survive what happened to her.
I wasn’t aware of how long the movie was when Kristi popped it into the DVD player. It was maybe 9:30 p.m. when we started it, and we thought we would be able to watch Sybil and then the season opener of Saturday Night Live. The doctor had just started her hypnosis sessions with Sybil when it was time for SNL, and Kristi and I missed the episode with an appearance by Tina Fey in order to watch the rest of the movie.
It’s hard to believe that Sybil aired on regular network TV. I found it more disturbing than current horror movies and was wound up so tight afterward I couldn’t sleep that night. I didn’t get to bed until five that morning.
Sally Field is amazing in this movie, playing Sybil and her thirteen different personalities. The way she can switch from angry Peggy to the somber, morose Marcia with just a few facial twitches makes the multiple personalities so believable. Then there’s Hattie, the paranoid schizophrenic mother who made Sybil the way she is. Hattie is terrifying, much worse than Norman Bates’ mother in Psycho. And Joanne Woodward as the therapist puts the finishing touches to this female trinity.
Such a meaty movie. I’m still thinking of it at odd times more than a week after viewing it. Kristi got the book from the library and is reading it right now. I hope she finishes soon because I’m dying to read it.