Musings about “The Aviator”
Aviator is an amazing movie (directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio) that tells the story of Howard Hughes, an engineering mastermind in the first half of the 20th century, in two parts: his rise to fame and fortune and then his downfall as his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) rapidly consumes him. I really liked how the movie portrayed how Howard’s OCD destroyed his life, which detailed just how devastating the effects of OCD are and how if left untreated can bring down anyone, even the richest and most powerful people in America. The movie portrays OCD in a very realistic way and drops several cleverly placed hints in the beginning of the movie that foreshadow Howard’s demise. When Howard’s OCD fully sets in, we see many of the symptoms that are typical of an OCD patient and see how frightening the disorder can be.
Howard’s OCD starts off simply. We see him, in the first scene, being lectured by his mom of the dangers of germs, setting in motion a future fear to germs. As an adult, in one scene, when Howard gets uncomfortable, he goes to bathroom to wash his hands and he continues to wash his hands long after what most people would call sufficient and necessary, indicating his obsession with absolutely clean and sterile hands (stemming from his fear of germs I would expect). His OCD continues to get worse and worse as the movie progresses. Later in the movie, Howard becomes disgusted with a business partner for having an almost unnoticeable speck on his jacket, and refuses to speak to and look at the man until the man has taken a clean handkerchief, wiped off the speck with that handkerchief, and then thrown the handkerchief into a specific trashcan. This reflects another symptom of OCD, an obsession with order and exactness, and this scene is rather strange to watch and is perhaps the scene where the movie moves to the second act, where Howard’s OCD begins to cripple his life. These scenes are the most chilling scenes in the entire movie and ones I won’t spoil for the reader. Other symptoms Howard displays that are common in OCD patients include: an inability to control what he says (constantly repeating the same phrase and being unable to stop saying it), collecting completely useless things (empty milk bottles full of his urine), refusing to shake hands and touch doorknobs, being fearful of seemingly insignificant things (afraid that his accountant is wiretapping his phone lines), and a need for order and symmetry (refusing to eat a plate of food after someone took a pea from it, which ruined the exact placement of the other peas).
This is a great movie to learn about OCD, since the movie’s main goal is to show the devastating effects of OCD on an individual. It is a exciting and chilling ride through the life of one of America’s most influential men and I definitely would recommend the movie regardless of one’s interest in OCD.