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 [F] Mystery Net Community  / Writing Mysteries  / Elements of a Mystery  /

The murder at the Asylum

I don't know if this is the right place to post this, but I'll give it a try. My name is Freddy and I'm a filmmaker from Tel Aviv. I really enjoy murder mysteries, yet my mystery education is quite poor - a few Christie, a few Doyle, a few classics, and that's about it. That doesn't stop from wanting to write a mystery script, though. I want to make a film about a murder mystery that takes place in a mentally retarded sanatorium. The general idea is this: a few decades ago all the workers of a countryside mentally retarded sanatorium go home for the holidays, leaving the manager, a kind and aging woman, alone with the inhabitants for a week. The next morning she turns up dead. What are the mentally retarded inhabitants to do? One of them killed her, they know. The workers aren't supposed to get back till next week. They are left for their own devices. Here the film splits into two: first, one of the inhabitants, influenced by detective stories he vaguely knows, initiates an investigation. This is difficult: both the detective and the suspects are feeble minds, sometimes acting not rationally. He attempts to fight is own disadvantage and find the murderer. In the meantime, the inhabitants try to live on their own, to govern themselves. They have never been left alone: one of the inhabitants convinces the others that they don't need anyone to take care of them, that they can take care of themselves, and tries to create something like a new regime, communal and monarchic at the same time. As the chaos at the asylum gets our of control, the murder plot thickens. Even though it might sound like a farce, I don't think of it as a comedy or a parody of the mystery tradition. I think it's a an interesting setting: a detective lacking in skill, whose mind is weak and cluttered; and suspects who are themselves lacking in wits. It's like a mystery story gone wrong, in many senses. The rebellion side of the story, in which the inhabitants try to create their own society, is interesting in itself: I know this isn't a film forum, but it's like a homage to German director Werner Herzog's film 'even dwarfs started small', which tells of a rebellion in an asylum for mentally retarded dwarfs. It's not a comedy: it's a poetic and disturbing film. Now, I might have asked some of you for a classic mystery that takes place in an institution, but but referred only to mysteries that take place in insane asylums, which is different. I don't even know where to start with, thinking about the murder mystery here: it should be fairly simple, I think. I can't even think of possible motives! It's a real challenge: it can't be about money, it can't really be about love (maybe I'm wrong here), and it can't really be about revenge either. Tricky and problematic. So what I wanted to ask you is this: first, do you know of any relevant mysteries I should read and perhaps adapt? Second, is there any writer in this forum, experienced in writing murder mysteries, who'd be willing to write this with me?

I should add a few words about myself: This is to be my first feature film. My last two shorts have screened extensively around the world, including the Cannes film festival, San Sebastian film festival, and many others.

Thank you Freddy

Fran Hinkel - 05:10am Oct 28, 2009 PST(#1 of 3)
You can check out anytime you like...but you can never leave!

Well, it sounds like an interesting premise, but I think you should start out by saying they are mentally challenged, not mentally retarded, which seems offensive to me and I don't think they ive in asylums. Now, criminally insane is different. Sorry, I am not a writer and can't help you there. Good luck on your search.

S. F. Kislev - 04:59am Nov 2, 2009 PST(#2 of 3)


I don't think it's offensive: on . Anyway, I didn't mean to be offensive. And they actually do live in institutions - not really asylums, but closed environments.

Fran Hinkel - 09:07am Nov 9, 2009 PST(#3 of 3)
You can check out anytime you like...but you can never leave!

Must be different in Tel Aviv. Here, the word retarded is not considered to be polite. I know you did not intend to be offensive, just offering some advice.

The Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (1975), identifies the rights of mentally retarded people, including the right to training to develop their capabilities to the maximum. P.L. 94-142 (1975) assures that all handicapped children will receive an appropriate education. Similar laws have been passed in most states, and numerous court decisions have proclaimed that mentally retarded people must be given the opportunity for a full life in the “least restrictive environment. For most of them, this means being in a home and a community like yours and mine.

Those who think of mentally retarded people as living in, and needing to live in, large institutions should consider the following facts. Most of them (approximately 90 per cent) are mildly retarded (I.Q. 55 to 69), and in the majority of cases, self-supporting. Most moderately retarded people (I.Q. 40 to 54) can live in a home environment and work successfully in a sheltered workshop (many corporations subcontract routine, repetitious jobs to such workshops). A number of studies have shown that the mentally retarded become more independent in small community programs where they are exposed to the experiences of everyday life. This “community” experience may mean living in their family’s home, in a supervised or unsupervised apartment, in a supervised group home with other mentally retarded people, or in any home in the neighborhood. The experience also may involve working in any one of a variety of competitive jobs that nonhandicapped people also hold, working in a sheltered workshop, or attending a program that teaches self-help skills like cooking and doing laundry, as well as various prevocational skills.

The thrust over the past 15 to 20 years has been to move mentally handicapped people out of institutions and into such community programs. This movement has been greeted with enormous enthusiasm by some, with overwhelming opposition by others. Neighborhoods where group homes are to be located have frequently been cautious and somewhat fearful about what this will mean for their image and for property values. But many people have taken a much more positive attitude toward their mentally retarded neighbors once they have gotten to know them.

The struggle for recognition of the rights of mentally handicapped people is reminiscent of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Both fought for the right of all people to be treated as human beings, able to live and work where they choose.

Hope that clarifies.

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 [F] Mystery Net Community  / Writing Mysteries  / Elements of a Mystery  / The murder at the Asylum

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