Sybil (2007)

Introduction

Sybil is a 2007 American made-for-television drama film directed by Joseph Sargent, and written by John Pielmeier, based on the 1973 book Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber, which fictionalised the story of Shirley Ardell Mason, who was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (more commonly known then as “split personality”, now called dissociative identity disorder).

This is the second adaptation of the book, following the Emmy Award-winning 1976 mini-series Sybil that was broadcast by NBC.

Outline

Troubled Columbia University art student and later student teacher Sybil Dorsett is referred to psychiatrist Cornelia Wilbur by Dr. Atcheson, a colleague who believes that the young woman is suffering from female hysteria. As her treatment progresses, Sybil confesses that she frequently experiences blackouts and cannot account for large blocks of time. Wilbur helps her recall a childhood in which she suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of her disturbed mother Hattie.

Eventually, 16 identities varying in age and personal traits begin to emerge. Chief among them is Victoria, a French woman who explains to Dr. Wilbur how she shepherds the many parts of Sybil’s whole. Frustrating the therapist are objections raised by her associates, who suspect she has influenced her patient into creating her other selves, and Sybil’s father, who refuses to admit his late wife was anything other than a loving mother.

Although she had promised never to hypnotize Sybil, later into the treatment, Dr. Wilbur takes her patient to her home by a lake and hypnotizes her into having all 16 personalities be the same age as she and become just aspects of Sybil. By nightfall, Sybil claims she feels different, and emotionally declares her hatred toward her mother.

The last part of the movie tells of the history of Shirley Mason, the real woman who was known by the pseudonym of Sybil Dorsett.

Cast

  • Jessica Lange ….. Dr. Cornelia Wilbur.
  • Tammy Blanchard ….. Sybil Dorsett.
  • Eddie Ruiz ….. Dr. Ladysman.
  • JoBeth Williams … Hattie Dorsett.

Trivia

  • The university scenes were filmed at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
  • In January 2006, The Hollywood Reporter announced CBS had greenlit the project, but it was shelved after completion.
  • The film was released in Italy, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Norway, and Hungary before finally being broadcast in the US by CBS on 07 June 2008.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Joseph Sargent.
  • Producer(s):
    • Andrea Lapins … associate producer.
    • Michael Mahoney … producer.
    • Norman Stephens … executive producer.
    • Mark Wolper … executive producer.
  • Writer(s): John Pielmeier.
  • Music: Charles Bernstein.
  • Cinematography: Donald M. Morgan.
  • Editor(s): Michael Brown (as Mike Brown).
  • Production:
    • Norman Stephens Productions.
    • Warner Bros. Television.
    • Wolper Organisation.
  • Distributor(s): CBS (original airing, US).
  • Release Date: 28 May 2007 (Italy).
  • Running Time: 89 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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