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Associate Site:

The International R.D. Laing Institute

Bibliography Main Page [link]
Politics & Other Works


A film by Peter Robinson

filmed by Richard W. Adams
Re-released by KINO International, 2004

= Special Announcement =

The UBC Dept. of Psychiatry and Pacific Cinémathèque Present
a special showing of Asylum
Thursday, April 21st 7:30 PM
Pacific Cinémathèque 1131 Howe St. Vancouver, BC

for info call (604) 822-7610 or visit

Rd Laing and Richard Adamas"I had always felt comfortable working with Peter, but on seeing some murky black-and-white silent footage shot at Kingsley Hall, and hearing Peter's thumbnail sketches of some of the more bizarre residents, and knowing that at least two television crews had been thrown out or denied permission, and reading The Politics of Experience, and having somnambulated wistfully through the 1960s as an utter square, I felt I was simply not hip enough to be the cameraman on such a project. But then my unconscious was startled by a far more personal encounter with Laing than I'd have thought possible. I had been reading The Divided Self in preparation for the filming, and one night I dreamt the door to my bedroom was opened and in peeked R.D.Laing himself. It was probably then that I began to feel a certain claim of my own on the project."

excerpt from How the Filming of Asylum Came About, by Richard Adams,
(published in UBC Dept. of Psychiatry Newsletter) [download pdf]

In 1971, a group of filmmakers were granted the opportunity to film for several weeks at a unique home for "mentally troubled" individuals in London, UK. The Archway Community was based in large part on the theories of the late radical psychiatrist R.D. Laing, including his belief that the hierarchical structure of the usual doctor-patient relationship could be broken down by communal living - an effort to break the cycle of people being fruitlessly shuttled between mental hospitals and their often dysfunctional homes. The film participates in this ethos, simply observing the housemates as they interact with each other, often in fascinating digressions that illustrate Laing's thesis at the time that "madness", while painful, could sometimes have creative and socially positive outcomes. A tremendously humane and powerful document of community.

As pointed out by Dr. Donald Moss of the NYU Psychoanalytic Institute, "R.D. Laing disrupted the paradigm of analyst as subject and patient as object that had shaped clinical theory from Freud on. Laing insisted on a practice based on identification, not on objectification. The authority of one's interpretation was to be grounded in either a momentary or prolonged participation in the other's 'condition'."

ASYLUM, 1972, 96 minutes, color, 16mm, directed by Peter Robinson, filmed and edited by Richard Adams

The program will include a post-screening discussion with —

Richard W. Adams. ASYLUM's cameraman and editor, Adams' credits include collaboration on the late Francis Thomspon's Oscar-winning 3-screen TO BE ALIVE!, William Miles' MEN OF BRONZE and I REMEMBER HARLEM, as well as his own CITIZENS, on Poland's Solidarity movement, and A DAY AT E.I.S., on a homelessness-prevention centre. Adams is currently developing a film on a day-program for people with dementia.

Dr. Andrew Feldmár. Andrew Feldmár is a psychologist in Vancouver, practicing psychotherapy for the past 36 years. He undertook to create Asylums in Vancouver and Budapest, Hungary. He met R.D. Laing in 1974, studied and worked with him, and they remained friends and colleagues until Laing's death in 1989. Among his produced lectures and seminars, Andrew Feldmár appeared in and co-produced DID YOU USED TO BE R.D. LAING? (Third Eye Productions, 1989).

and will also feature —

the screening of 25 minutes of the late Peter Robinson's rare footage capturing R.D. Laing as counter-culture guru in top form during his 1972 tour of U.S. college campuses: applauded by fans of his DIVIDED SELF and THE POLITICS OF EXPERIENCE; facing down a contemptuous medical student; cavorting with Alan Watts; playing the harpsichord, and discovering birth therapy.

Full details of the event available in the UBC announcement flyer:
[download pdf]
Tickets can be purchased through Pacific Cinématèche's
box office online


"Robinson is clearly sympathetic to Laing, but the director wisely feels no compulsion to squelch the thorny questions that arise. Should people with such diverse problems be treated together? Is adequate supervision possible in a relaxed communal environment? What is the proper distance between doctors and patients? While Archway - and Robinson - can't offer ideal answers, anyone familiar with the systemic abuses of power that Wiseman catalogued knows that just provoking these queries was a sign of progress."

- Darren D'Addario, Time Out, 2003

"Asylum is a fascinating documentary - both as a period piece and for its theater-of-the-absurd pathos."

- J. Hoberman, Village Voice, 2003

"Unavoidably there are some tense moments, and they are explored but not exploited by this enterprising but humanly decent film.

- Roger Greenspun, The New York Times, 1972

"Almost terrifyingly direct and involving - a model of cinema verite - Although the dialogue in ASYLUM is as bizarre as it is painful, truly tragicomic in a way that Beckett and Pinter would be stretched to equal, the characters can't be kept at an emotional distance. ASYLUM takes the key away from the audience - and makes excitingly dangerous connections."

- Martin Knelman, Toronto Globe and Mail, 1974

"A deeply feeling film - one that spares neither the time nor patience it takes to follow the patients through all their ups and downs."

- Donia Mills, Washington Star, 1976

"Peter Robinson's ASYLUM, artless and unpretentious, is really a communiqué from some other, unexplored subcontinent of the soul - It is an excruciating experience that lingers powerfully."

- John Wykert, Psychiatric News, 1974

Previous Showings....


32 SECOND AVENUE NEW YORK, NY 10003; (212) 505-5181 fax (212) 477-2714



on R.D.Laing's therapeutic community in London

8:30 PM

plus 1972 scenes of R.D.Laing in the U.S.A.

Anthology Film Archives is proud to bring back, courtesy of KINO International, a unique and moving documentary on mental illness, the late Peter Robinson's ASYLUM, following its highly successful week's run at Anthology in 2003. Despite acclaim at festivals and theatrical showings abroad when released in 1972, the film had limited exposure in the U.S., but acquired legendary status for some in the psychiatric community and amongst cinema verité aficionados - as a liberating and positive companion to Frederick Wiseman's TITICUT FOLLIES.

Anthology Film Archives is located at 32 Second Ave. at Second Street and can be reached by the F train (2nd Ave. stop) or the #6 (Bleecker Street stop).

Tickets on sale half an hour ahead are $8 for adults and $5 for students, seniors, & AFA members.

Contact: Travis Miles at (212) 505-5181 x20, or at

Richard Adams, (212) 832-3254, or at

*Asylum on DVD can be ordered online from the Kino International Website at:

Comments and suggestions on the content and/or any problems with the display of this page would be appreciated by the admin. Thanks.