Altered States

dir. Ken Russell

Series - Retrospective

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A brilliant research scientist (William Hurt) attempting to explore new levels of consciousness undergoes a terrifying series of evolutionary (and devolutionary) transformations, in Ken Russell's wildly psychedelic sci-fi drama.

In the late 1960s, Eddie Jessup (William Hurt) is a brilliant and rebellious grad student whose fascination with abnormal psychology leads him to conduct mind-expanding experiments within an isolation chamber, where he has hallucinatory experiences while trying to achieve an altered state of being. Seven years later, married and a respected professor at Harvard, Jessup yearns to resume his experiments. Ignoring the concerns of his wife and colleagues, Jessup plunges back into the sensory-deprivation tank, where his attempts to explore new levels of consciousness start changing him (both mentally and physically) in unexpected and terrifying ways. Directed by maverick auteur Ken Russell from the novel by legendary screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, Altered States might be the best Cronenberg film that Cronenberg never made: both a meditation on the possibilities (and limits) of human consciousness and a psychedelic journey down the rabbit hole of the human mind, full of trippy visuals and wild special effects.