The Man Whose Mind Exploded

"Excellent"

The Man Whose Mind Exploded Review


With sensitivity and a strong sense of humour, this documentary profiles both a strikingly eccentric man and an unusual mental-health issue. Filmmaker Toby Amies infuses his work with the cheeky personality of the central subject, a larger-than-life character who calls himself Drako Zarhazar and roams the streets of Brighton, on England's south coast, without the ability to form new memories.

Drako was born as Tony Banwell in 1936 and had a high-flying life as a handsome young man. As a model, he worked with Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Derek Jarman, and he indulged in rampant drug use with the biggest stars of the 60s and 70s. All of this came to an end with a motorbike crash in the early 1980s, which changed his personality. Then after a 10-year-recovery, a 1991 car accident left him with permanent amnesia. His long-term memory is fine, but his Memento-like condition means that he now has no concept of anticipation, no idea how distant his past memories are and he never misses anyone when they're not around.

Over the years Amies films him, Drako lives in a cluttered Brighton council flat surrounded by memorabilia. As in Memento, he uses tattoos to remember things, such as his ethos: "trust absolute unconditional", which by the end of the documentary has blossomed into a startlingly emotional message. His apartment is a hive of snapshots, posters, hand-written notes and a wide range of photos of the naked men Drako admires. Indeed, he's a fabulous diva who sweeps around town in a cape, dropping morsels of wisdom and madness everywhere he goes, and he loves his daily life even if simple things like visiting a doctor make him panic. Amies films all of this without judgement or preconceptions, befriending Drako even though he forgets all about Amies every time he leaves the flat.

The film includes telling comments from Drako's closest relatives, nephew Marc Gregory and sister Ra Gregory, who worry about the nest of squalor but know that Drako needs his independence. And this sense of respect adds another layer to the film, as it offers a more positive approach to dealing with a mental-health issue than simply sending a loved one to a live-in facility. Drako's life is full and unapologetic, even as he's aware of his own stubbornness and self-absorption. But watching this film gives a strong sense of the richness of having a character like this in the family, or as a friend or neighbour. And Amies' playfully intimate style of filmmaking offers a complex portrait of a fascinating man who was given the dignity to live his own life right to the end.



The Man Whose Mind Exploded

Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Run time: 77 mins

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 8

IMDB: 8.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Toby Amies

Producer: Toby Amies, Rob Alexander, Kat Mansoor

Starring: tony banwell as documentary subject

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