Marie Lidén’s directorial debut is a profoundly moving documentary that explores the emotional toll of electrosensitivity and our reliance on technology. Read our Electric Malady review.
Marie Lidén’s Bafta-nominated Electric Malady is a haunting and poignant documentary that offers an intimate look at the life of William, a man whose once adventurous existence has been drastically reduced by the rare and controversial condition known as electrosensitivity.
At only 40 years old, William’s life is now confined to a remote cabin in the Swedish countryside, enveloped in a shroud of copper-lined textiles and a foil-encased bedroom to defend him from exposure to pylons, gadgets, smartphones, and wireless hubs that spark debilitating seizures and raging headaches.
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Lidén wisely avoids getting bogged down in the controversial arguments surrounding the medical legitimacy of electrosensitivity and instead zeroes in on the emotional impact on William and his family. Electric Malady doesn’t attempt to convince or convert us to any particular opinion, and Liden does not even draw from her own experience with electrosensitivity, which caused her family to live without modern comforts. Instead, the film offers a humane and profoundly moving portrait of a barely present man yet remains optimistic in the face of isolation and limited creative opportunities.
Lidén’s documentary is a masterful exercise in capturing William’s life with stunning detail, inspired by Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank and Jim Archer’s David and Charles. With tender care, William’s daily routine is portrayed as he shuffles around his cabin, wearing an oversized radiation-proof helmet and a large, white radiation-proof sheet that makes him look like a Halloween muppet adrift in the wind. Throughout, we’re acutely aware of the poignant and emotional weight of William’s condition and his parents’ burden in caring for him.
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As the film unfolds, Electric Malady completely lifts the lid on our reliance on objects that radiate electronic signals and the potential unnoticed harm it may cause. William’s story provides moments of poignant silence, cut only by the rustling of his fabric contraption. It hauntingly reminds us of the invisible spectre of unnatural radiation that haunts the film.
The documentary’s message is twisted but clear: those tormented by electrosensitivity cannot experience the film, while those privileged to view it may still doubt the condition’s existence.
Lidén’s directorial debut is a powerful exploration of a rare, little-understood disorder that politely requests our understanding. Electric Malady requests us to suspend our disbelief and meditate on the mysteries of the unseen forces that shape our lives and keep society running. This documentary is a prime example of cinema’s potential to reveal the hidden corners of the human experience. And it’ll stay with you for a long time.
Electric Malady is in cinemas from 3rd March