Rocks in My Pockets is the darkly and quirkily animated story of the suicide, depression, and schizophrenia across several generations of the filmmaker’s family. Signe Baumane, a Latvian immigrant to New York, acknowledges her own struggle with depression and fantasizing about suicide. This film begins with the story of how her grandparents became a couple. Anna, a twenty-something college graduate in 1920’s Latvia, took an interest in her married, 50-something boss. After attracting his attention, he leaves his wife and marries her. Together, they have eight children; however, Anna finds herself feeling trapped and depressed. She tries to kill herself twice, but is stopped. She ultimately dies in her sleep at age 50. Although she had been physically healthy, her family attributes her death to natural causes or exhaustion; they ignore the evidence that she overdosed on medications. This does not satisfy Signe, who wants to understand why her mind works the way it does; she wants to know “the origins of the intensity of feelings” that she has. Signe goes on to share how she deals with her own struggles; by being available to other people, connecting with them and helping them, she finds the strength to stay “alive and sane” from day to day.
The Adoption Connection
Signe wants to understand an element of herself. She believes that knowing the truth about her grandmother will help her understand herself, but she is frustrated when people seem to try to hide the truth. Ultimately, she does learn enough about her family history to be helped. Although Rocks in My Pockets isn’t an adoption story, it does capture the importance of honest information about one’s genetic family.
Baumane has said that animation can provide a window into thought and emotion that live action can’t provide. She’s right; the film is successful in conveying to the viewer the characters’ dark, confused feelings that made suicide seem like an escape. By the end of the film, Signe has shared that she is able to stay alive and sane each day by connecting with the people around her. Talking about difficult topics – including mental illness and suicide – can help make the feelings manageable, and this film brings those topics into view and also offers insight about what they feel like, a story of how they can be present in multiple generations of a family, and hope that people can survive the destructive impulses they feel.
Baumane has also said that animation isn’t only for children, and she’s right. Rocks in My Pockets isn’t for kids. Characters plot their suicides aloud, a rabbit’s throat is slit, and a character leaves his wife for his young secretary, once she attracts his attention by wearing a low-cut dress to work. The film might be too heavy or dark for some viewers.
Rocks in My Pockets could be helpful for professionals or other adults who want to develop empathy for the inner world and inner experience of people who struggle with depression, schizophrenia and suicidality. It opened earlier this month in New York and Los Angeles. Screening locations and dates are listed at http://www.rocksinmypocketsmovie.com/Screenings.html
Questions for Discussion
What information might adoptees want to know about their birth families? Why is it important for them to have that information?
How comfortable are you talking with others about depression? About suicide? How can we create a culture where it is OK and not shameful to talk about these feelings?