Reprinted from The Manchester Guardian by Ronald Bergan on April 15, 2018.
When Miloš Forman, who has died aged 86, travelled to Prague to shoot the film Amadeus in 1984, it was the first time he had set foot in his homeland for 16 years. He had fled communist Czechoslovakia in 1968 just before the Russians put an end to the Prague Spring.
In the US, when he was offered One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), set in a state psychiatric hospital, he saw it as a metaphor for the conformist society from which he had escaped. Forman identified with McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), the grinning antihero fighting the system as represented by Nurse Ratched, played with chilling authority by Louise Fletcher. McMurphy is finally lobotomised after attempting to throttle the nurse, who signified the way totalitarian regimes exact revenge on transgressors. It was something Forman knew about personally, having lived under nazism and Stalinism.
The picture, made at a cost of $3m, earned more than $50m. It was also the first movie since It Happened One Night (1934) to win all five top Oscars: best picture, best actor (Nicholson), best actress (Fletcher), best director and best screenplay adaptation. It was an especially sweet triumph for Forman, who had been struggling to get work when One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest came along. …