Vincent, a young man with Tourette's syndrome, loses his mother and his home. He is placed in a mental institution by his father who is to worried more about his own political career than his son's welfare. Vincent and two other patients break out from the institution to travel to Italy. Vincent wants to lay his mother to rest at the sea. Along the way unlikely friendships are formed and relationships change.
It forces me to do what I don't want to
This German film starts out at a funeral, where we are introduced to the main character of the film, Vincent Galler. Vincent is a young man, who, at this point in the film, is struggling to keep his tics under control during the funeral for his mother (01:24). As more people continue to stare at Vincent and whisper about him, the tics get worse until he is eventually forced to stand outside the church so that his tics calm down (01:44). This is one of the first events that leads Vincent to do things he doesn't want to do.
After the funeral we learn that Vincent’s father will place Vincent in a mental institution so that he can continue on with his political career. The use of a mental institution appears to be a mis-portrayal of placement and treatment for people with TS. TS, by itself is not a reason to place someone in a mental institution in the United States, and presumably, in Europe. Vincent’s father also states that his son is "retarded" (29:26). In reality, TS is not a form of intellectual disability or delay and people who have TS are expected to have normal IQ levels (Munson 2005). In the movie Vincent does appear naïve but does appear to be able to learn as others do.
Mr. Galler also expects that Vincent will become "cured" of TS and seems disappointed when he learns that the tics and vocalizations are something Vincent needs to learn to live with and manage. We learn during the intake process that the institution focuses on habit reversal training where the tics are replaced with another behavior. This type of therapy, based on an actual treatment (Kurlan 2013), involves self-monitoring of tics and learning to substitute a behavior that is physically incompatible with the tic. Studies have suggested that this type of therapy can be effective in children, but it remains to be seen how effective this type of therapy is with adults (Piacentini et al 2010). We also learn during this time that Vincent would like to finish high school and maybe go on to college, but most of all it seems that Vincent would like to be accepted by his father.
At the institution, Vincent meets two other patients Alex, a patient who experiences OCD and Marie, an anorexic. The rest of the film centers around Vincent, Marie and Alex escaping the institution and traveling to Italy while Mr. Galler and Dr. Rose, the institution’s physician, desperately try to catch them to make sure that nothing happens to them and to help make sure that this stays out of the public's eye so that Mr. Galler's reelection campaign continues on unharmed.
As the trio continues on their trip to Italy, they begin to form a bond and Vincent begins to share what it is like to live with TS. When Marie asks if he can tell when the tics are coming Vincent compares the tics to something similar to a sneeze. "It just kind of crawls up" (45:58) he states. Often times many people with TS feel that the tics they experience help relieve uncomfortable sensations. They can be suppressed for a period of time, but the sensation continues to build until the impulse becomes so great that releasing the tic is the only source of relief (Kurlan 2010). The types of tics that Vincent displayed throughout the movie were pretty typical. Common tics include eye twitching, tensing of the abdominal muscles, facial grimacing, throat clearing and sniffing. Throughout the movie, Vincent displayed another behavior called coprolalia, which is defined as obscene or insulting utterances. This type of tic is what many people identify as a typical of TS. However in reality, coprolalia occurs in less than fifteen percent of patients diagnosed with TS (Munson 2005).
Another realistic view of TS is captured when Vincent's tics get worse when he is under periods of high stress, anxiety or anger. When told to calm down Vincent replies with "It forces me to do what I don't want to. Calming down is about the last thing that I can do" (49:39). The tics have the tendency to come more often during periods of stressful life events or during periods of high excitement (Leckman 2002) and there are times in the movie that Vincent experiences no tics, which is also the case with TS. While in search of the trio, Vincent’s father finally begins to accept Vincent for who he is. At the end of the film, there is a newfound respect between Mr. Galler and Vincent and the movie ends with Vincent starting a new life in Italy.
In conclusion, Vincent Wants to Sea portrays a mostly accurate account about the symptoms of TS but is not accurate about people with TS needing to be cared for in Mental Institutions. The main character Vincent experiences the everyday struggles of living with TS.
I would have liked to see another type of vocal tic used besides coprolalia since the majority of patients with TS do not suffer from this type of tic. I also feel that if another type of vocal tic was used this movie could be used in middle school settings. I really liked this film. It also showed that people with TS can lead normal lives. I think the best audience for this film would for teenagers above the age of 16. If parental permission is granted, this film may be used in the middle school setting from perhaps eighth grade on up. The scene between Marie and Vincent in the woods may be considered inappropriate for younger audiences, and I feel that if a teacher decided to show this movie as part of a lesson, they would have to stress the fact that coprolalia is not a common tic in TS. Teachers would also have to stress the importance that people with TS can manage their tics effectively, lead normal lives and function very well in society.
Jäger V., Kügler H. (Producers) & Huettner, R. (Director). (2010). Vincent Wants to Sea [Motion picture]. Germany: Corinth Films
Kurlan, R. (2010). Tourette's syndrome. The New England Journal of Medicine. 363(24), 2332-2338
Kurlan, R. (2013) Treatments of tourette syndrome. NeuroTherapeutics. 11(1), 161-165
Leckman, J. (2002) Tourette's syndrome. The Lancet. 360(9345), 1577-1586
Munson, B. (2005). Myths & Facts....About tourette's syndrome. Nursing. 35(8), 29.
Piacentini, J., Woods, D., Scahill, L., Wilhelm, S., Peterson, A., Chang, S., ...Walker, J. (2010). Behavior therapy for children with tourette disorder. A randomized controlled trial. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 303(19) 1929-1937
Zillmer, E., Spiers, M., Culbertson, W. (2008) Principles of neuropsychology. Cengage Learning