The movie “Touched with Fire” (also the title of Kay Redfield Jamison’s book) is coming out on Feb. 12th. The synopsis and comments of film maker Paul Dalio are hopeful, especially this “If I had any hope at all that there was any chance, any possibility that I could be happy and full of creativity, and even better than I was before, which now is the case, I would fight.” Hope, that is the one thing we all need and the one thing that sustains us, whether we have bipolar disorder or not.
“Set to be released on Feb. 12, Paul Dalio’s new film, “Touched with Fire,” depicts Dalio’s personal experiences with bipolar disorder. The title of the film is taken from Kay Redfield Jamison’s 1996 book, “Touched with Fire,” which explored how many of the greatest artistic minds in history had bipolar disorder. Jamison herself acknowledges having bipolar disorder since early adulthood. Dalio explains that the book helped him see himself not just as an individual with a “defect” but as having a gift that taps into something that most people can’t. “Touched with Fire” takes Dalio’s personal experiences with bipolar disorder and uses two characters, Carla and Marco, to contrast the different emotions Dalio has felt toward bipolar in his life. The love story between these two characters is a metaphor for Dalio’s “love-and-hate relationship with bipolar: the way they bring out the romance in each other, but also the devastation in each other, and the way they have to reconcile those two things.” He stated, “The journey that I went through that I think a lot of people with bipolar go through is that you get it and you’re lost, but then you easily romanticize that fire ultimately to your own destruction. It ultimately takes most people repeated devastations to let go of the mania. What I wanted to do was have that journey of how they learned that they can have real meaningful emotions and sustain them. My hope is that people are able to watch the film and see where Marco and Carla make mistakes and know that they don’t have to make them themselves.”
One of the biggest themes throughout the film is the relationship that the two main characters must manage with their parents and offers glimpses into each person’s actions. Dalio describes how his family would frequently talk him out of suicide when he was in the midst of a depressive episode. “It was very draining on them, but they really struggled to try and give me hope. The best a family can do is to give hope to their family member, but ultimately it has to come down to the individual. The loss of hope – in my own experience – was the only time I had thoughts of suicide. If I had any hope at all that there was any chance, any possibility that I could be happy and full of creativity, and even better than I was before, which now is the case, I would fight.” Dalio stated that his goal for the film was to show a truthful situation between individuals and “well-intentioned parents.” “The truth is, even well intentioned parents, don’t always know what to do. They are dealing with a situation that there is no perfect guidebook for. My hope was to create characters that the audience could see themselves in. If there were any well intentioned parents in the audience, that they could not only see themselves in the parents, but also through their children’s eyes. That they could at least be able to understand their children enough so they could understand where they are coming from so that they can communicate with them.” Dalio’s final thoughts include describing bipolar disorder like a pendulum, and using exercise, meditation, and a low-sugar diet along with his prescribed medications to help manage the emotional swings. According to Dalio, “True happiness is having an appreciation of the darkest and brightest emotions and being able to experience both of them equally.””