Do you Know of Films that Highlight the Effects of Social Isolation?

Ingrid Bergman in “Gas Light” (Wikipedia Commons)

I’m looking for suggestions from my readers! I’m currently working on compiling a multi-media bibliography on the theme of social isolation. As you know if you read this blog, I am interested in how the fear of social rejection causes people to conform and comply with bad policies led by bad actors.  In particular: how social isolation — and the threat of it — is used as a weapon to control people. Such dynamics are evident in every level of life: in our personal lives, professional lives, and in the socio-political landscape.

I have a pretty comprehensive list of books and articles, but I’d really like to expand my list of movies and documentaries on this theme. 

BIG QUESTION: Can you think of some movies or documentaries that are good candidates for the theme of social isolation and how isolation affects us? If so, I invite you to please send your ideas through the contact form on this blog so that I can consider adding them to my list.

To give you an idea of what I have in mind, let me provide a sample list below.  As you will see, there are a variety of genres that appeal to a variety of audiences.  You can suggest popular movies as well as classics or scholarly documentaries. The main thing is that the theme should really stand out. Here’s a brief list:

The Experimenter – 2015 movie about psychologist Stanley Milgram’s “shock” experiments in the 1960’s, which he later wrote about in his book “Obedience to Authority.” He was astonished to discover how often ordinary people were willing to harm others when directed to do so by an authority figure.

Marty – won Best Picture Oscar in 1952.  Tells the story of two lonely people who become smitten with one another. But the main character feels socially pressured to dump his newfound love because his gang of buddies deride her as a “dog.”

Angi Vera, Hungarian Film by Pal Gabor (1978) with English subtitles – After communism was imposed on Hungary in 1948, the leadership made sure that all institutions were run only by those loyal to the party line.  The film takes you into an education camp in which future leaders are trained to replace those from the “old order.” We see “struggle sessions” and the psychology of snitch culture emerging.

The Children’s Story, by James Clavell – Short television movie (1980) which shows how a class of second grade children are emotionally manipulated to get with a program of promoting a new communist order and hating America.

The Wave — dramatization of social experiment at a Palo Alto High School by history teacher Ron Jones. When his students learned about the Holocaust, they could not understand how the German population would stand by and allow it to happen.  Jones’s students agreed to re-enact the basics of social conformity and compliance – and they actually lived through the process. It’s a fascinating look into how good people very often let bad things happen when they are motivated by the fear of social isolation. There is a German version of “The Wave” with English subtitles.

Mean Girls (Lindsay Lohan) 2004 – provides a picture of clique culture in a mega high school whereby meddlesome queen bees dictate all relationships and label everyone for either social survival or social death.  Key lines:  “You can’t sit with us.”  “The rules aren’t real.”

Gaslight (starring Ingrid Bergman) 1944.  This is the film that brought the psychological term “gas lighting” into psychological parlance.  The term is now embedded in social media.  Officially it means the sort of psychological abuse that causes a person to think they’re crazy.

The Lives of Others, 2006 (Academy Award for Best Foreign Film) A look at private life under the control of the surveillance state of communist East Germany. Psychological warfare writ large. (William F. Buckley stated that he thought it was the best movie he had ever seen.)

If you’d like to add to the list, please let me know!

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