If you are looking for a decent thriller with historical characters and context, there is one film that we would recommend for you. The film “The Professor and The Madman” which was released in March 2019 is the true story of a professor who holds the title named Sir James Murray. In 1857 compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, he experienced some extraordinary adventures and chronicles that impact the world even today. Meanwhile, this is also the story of a WC Doctor. Minors, People With Schizophrenia (ODS) or persons with psychosocial disabilities who submitted more than 10,000 entries while he was being admitted to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum rehabilitation home.
Prof Murray is a Scottish man who is expected to complete nationalistic mega-project work under the orders of the British Empire. Although often looked down upon by his colleagues at Oxford College, Murray managed to complete a dictionary compiled with the greatest contribution of Minors. James Murray, who acted as composer and supervisor of the mega project, brought his wife and children to Oxford.
There are many reasons why the film The Professor and The Madman is worth watching. The three main things are the cast, the quality of the script, and the interesting story line. The film also includes 3 veteran actors: ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’ star Mel Gibson, Sean Penn who won the 2009 Oscar for Best Actor for the film ‘Milk’, and Eddie Marsan from ‘Sherlock Holmes.
Film by Farhad Safinia
In terms of the story, it is no less interesting. The work of director Farhad Safinia (under the pseudonym PB. Shemran) presents a mysterious tale in the history of the compilation of the Great Oxford English Dictionary in the 19th century.
Farhad, an Iranian-born US filmmaker, is noted to have collaborated with Mel Gibson when writing the screenplay for the legendary film ‘Apocalypto’. Meanwhile, while working with him on ‘The Professor and The Madman’, Farhad composed the script for this film with Todd Komarnicki, the famous US screenwriter and novelist.
Adapted from a book by Simon Winchester
In addition, the film The Professor and The Madman is an adaptation of a book of a similar title written by Simon Winchester. This popular book originally appeared in England under the title ‘The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words’. it was published in 1998.
A year later, the book was published by HarperCollins in the US with a new title, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.
The name Simon Winchester is familiar to readers of the world. More than 25 books have been written by a former journalist for The Guardian and a Geologist who graduated from the University of Oxford. Simon’s books contain mysterious and hidden stories from various parts of the world and important historical moments, the result of years of in-depth research. One of them is Krakatoa: When the World Explodes August 27, 1883 (2003).
On his personal website, Simon said he was interested in the story of the two people in the early 1980s. Initially, Simon was invited by his colleagues from the Oxford University publishing institute to see the warehouse of old campus goods. For Simon, the goods in the warehouse are treasure.
Among the items he picked up was the original 19th-century printing plate for Volume 5 of the Oxford Dictionary, partly on words of humor. From these items, Simon then combed interesting stories that had been forgotten by many people.
Despite the mysterious history of composing the first version of the Oxford English dictionary, among Simon’s books that have captivated international readers are The Map that Changed the World (2001), and Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded. The last book tells the thrilling story of the terrible explosion of Mount Krakatau in 1883.
While speaking at a discussion in an interview in 2017, Simon admitted that he never ran out of ideas because he always saw many things that were considered by most people as mundane and trivial. It is from these trifles that he finds great stories.
“The world has to be seen in the eyes of a 10 year old child, who is immersed in everything and always wants to know about everything,” said Simon.
Overall storyline of ‘The Professor and The Madman’
In the context of the mid-19th century, ‘The Professor and The Madman’ basically tells of the collaboration of two figures who have far different backgrounds in the formulation of the Oxford dictionary. The professor and madman were James Augustus Murray (Mel Gibson) and William Chester Minor (Sean Penn).
Murray, a Scottish philologist, received a mandate from the Grand Delegation of Oxford University Press to lead a project that had reached a dead end for years, namely the compilation of the Great Oxford English Dictionary. Murray’s selection was controversial because he did not have a convincing academic background.
History records that the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary took 70 years, starting in 1857. To compile this dictionary, tens of thousands of brilliant thinkers were involved in recording 414,825 words with precise definitions. Simon succeeded in tracing a mysterious story, namely the relationship between two figures who had a big role in the project, James Murray and William Chester Minor.
For two decades, Murray and Minor contacted each other for the purpose of compiling the Oxford dictionary. And it wasn’t until 1896, when the two met, that Murray learned that an important colleague had turned out to be a patient at Broadmoor, the British mental hospital for mad criminals.
Murray is just a self-taught literature and language student who dropped out of school at the age of 14. However, Murray’s capacity is absolutely not in doubt. He speaks dozens of languages. As a polyglot, he is fluent in Latin, Dutch, German, Celtic, Danish to Arabic. Murray also deserves to be called Polimatik because of his extensive knowledge.
Murray himself was told that he dropped out of school when he was 14, so he studied literature and languages on his own.
More than 10 thousand words and definitions provided by Minor. Starting from correspondence, Minor and Murray later met and became friends. Minor’s involvement became controversial after it was disclosed by the South London Chronicle newspaper. At that time, Minor’s health condition weakened and Murray resigned.
Good acting show and message
Both the characters Murray and Minor are people who have lived in the past and contributed greatly to the creation of the Oxford dictionary. So, the film The Professor and the Madman is considered a biographical film. And like a biographical film in general, “boredom” can enter the dictionary of the audience when watching it.
For those of you who are not quite familiar with the complexities behind creating dictionaries and are less fond of linguistics, this film can be boring. The problem is, they will be confused about why the activity of compiling a dictionary must involve many people and what things need to be taken from this film.
Then, for viewers who are looking for a climax, let alone a plot twist, this film will not live up to expectations. Watching this film actually won’t make us too happy, too sad, or too excited.
This film not only tells about the efforts made by the British government in the project to compile the Oxford dictionary but digs up the historical grave that there is a Dr. Minor, a schizophrenic who played a big role and even played the biggest role in his composition. The film also depicts the history of treatment for people with mental disorders, according to research conducted by a psychiatrist at a rehabilitation center. Drugs that were previously considered inhuman, so of course we find the formulas for treatment that we encounter today.
And the important thing in the film ‘The Professor and The Madman’, the truth of Dr. Minor showed the world that even though he was schizophrenic, he was capable of very extraordinary things, no matter where he came from.