Delirium is a psychological thriller about a young man named Tommy Walker who is fresh out of a psychiatric hospital after 20 years in it. In the past, he had some kind of traumatic experience and started to hallucinate and have visions.
After the death of his father, he is discharged from the hospital so that he can prove his ability to live in a forgotten social environment without the right to leave his luxurious but intimidating home. Throughout the visual narrative, viewers are forced to wonder what is actually real and what is going on in the protagonist’s delusional mind.
It should be noted that for its time, “Delirium” was a brilliantly shot film that became especially innovative and thought-provoking. At the same time, the declared elements of horror should not be taken literally.
However, together with them, the film perfectly sets up a terrible mood and becomes much darker as the storyline develops than it seems at first glance. In fact, Tom’s troubled past and some of his traumatic experiences that he’s been struggling with for a long time are gradually revealed.
What is Delirium about?
As part of his initial parole from the mental institution, Tommy must live on his family’s estate for 30 days, contact his parole officer, Brody, and confirm that he is in the house using the phone’s camera.
The real or imagined home of the Walker family is undoubtedly full of traumatic and unresolved memories. For Tommy, each space is associated with certain feelings and memories.
Upon arrival, he first retires to his childhood bedroom to relive happy memories of his childhood by laying out posters and toys. This is indicative of his current childhood development, which simply does not have the emotional tools to deal with his suffering.
And so, while he tries to adjust to his new circumstances, his only positive outlet appears in the form of Lynn, who is an employee of the local market, who brings him food and gradually takes an interest in his life.
Given his precarious state of mind, Tommy constantly wonders if this girl is real, if her interest and feelings are really expressed in a sincere way, or if everything that happens is just another illusion in his head.
As strange events take place in the house accompanied by bizarre circumstances, dark family secrets begin to unravel and Tommy is forced to come face to face with his traumatic past.
After being forced to witness a murder while helplessly handcuffed, Tommy is haunted by something that cannot be seen. He shares this with Lynn, remarking, “There was nothing I could do but watch that day.” This completely contradicts his father – Senator Walker, who, as Tommy finds out, preferred to spy on others.
As he searches the back alleys of the estate, he stumbles upon contraptions, including a secret door leading to peepholes in every room of the house, as well as hidden camera equipment mounted behind two-way mirrors. These revealing revelations help Tommy stop craving his father’s approval and look at the deeply twisted and flawed man behind him.
Upon finding the jar, Tommy at first assumes it is a hallucination, but is later horrified when he realizes that his father cut out his mother’s tongue and locked her in a cage in the basement of the house. This revelation is anticipated in a video of his father’s suicide, when he laments that his wife has begun to “reciprocate”.
But perhaps the most heartbreaking realization is that those unintelligible phone calls Tommy kept getting at the house were desperate pleas for help coming from his locked up mother.
It turns out that Alex, the elder brother of the protagonist, escaped from prison. After showing up at the mansion, he encourages Tommy to witness further acts of violence against Lynn, calling him “My little peeping Tom” and believing them to be two parts of a single whole.
Ultimately, however, these two people are completely different in their desires, temperament and goals. Alex is only interested in his father’s hidden money, and when they find their emaciated mother chained in the basement, Tommy consoles her with love, while Alex outright rejects her and shoots her.
When Lynn is about to be the next victim, Tommy rushes to her aid when Brody spots him, but she is also silenced for a long time when Alex slits her throat from behind. For the first time in his life, Tommy decides to fight back and rips the handcuffs off the wall, refusing to be a silent accomplice in yet another murder.
The meaning of the film “Delirium”
As the plot reveals, the source of Tommy’s mental illness stems from childhood trauma when his older brother Alex forced him to watch him drown a classmate.
Further, the already hallucinated and delusional man’s mental health deteriorates further when his father, Senator Walker, commits suicide days before leaving the hospital. Now, thinking that his mother left the family many years ago, and his brother is in prison, Tommy feels completely alone.
Accordingly, hallucinations of the main character are the only way for him to subconsciously protect himself by continuing to face his repressed internal wounds. For example, visions of a girl drowning in a pool warn of her brother’s attempt to flood the entire dungeon underwater, and the presence of his father’s dog attacking a corpse hints at the senator’s true hidden nature.
As a consequence, whether or not what is happening throughout Delirium is real or not, the most important thing is that when Tommy finds the incredible strength in himself to face his deepest fears, overcome them and with them and survive a serious test.
Whereas previously he was entirely certain that he could not change, moving forward, Tommy ultimately decides, when given the chance, to make the best choice he can from now on.
He proves to himself that, faced with the same situation as an adult, he would have acted differently and would have done everything in his power to save the victim. Tommy no longer idolizes his father and doesn’t need his approval. Also, knowing how much his mother loved him and that she never left him gives him the comfort he needs.
Tortured both by his brother’s past actions and by his own inaction at the time of the murder, he is forced to admit his own negligence in committing the crime. Circumstances pull him deeper and deeper, and in the end he descends into the depths of the manor’s dungeon. There, he comes face to face with the atrocities of his past, and by accepting those horrors, becomes fully capable of fighting his own inner demons, allowing his life to move forward.
Explanation of the ending of the movie “Delirium”
The whole effect of watching the movie clearly lies in finding out what is real and what is in Tom’s head. Clearly, there’s a lot going on here that isn’t literal. When Tommy returns to his father’s mansion, it’s hard to tell if he really lives in the house, or if this sense of isolation is causing him delusional hallucinations.
He has to deal with his dysfunctional relationship with his father, his lost mother, and his horrifying sibling, especially because of his involvement in the murder of an innocent girl. Even the final scene is an almost exact reproduction of the murder he witnessed but couldn’t stop. However, this time, he intervenes and saves Lynn, who in turn takes the plunge herself and actually drowns his brother in a direct replay of the original traumatic event. Through this, Tommy eventually gains control of his mental illness.
The full disclosure of the ending occurs when, after the conclusion of the final confrontation, the arriving law enforcement officers turn to Tommy with a direct question about whether this house belongs to him, to which he replies that it is now.
Regardless of what the mansion personified, freed from contradictions torn from within, the protagonist finally became the master of his life and his mind. That is, it was only after he came to terms with the events of his childhood and rethought the traumatic event of the murder that he was finally freed. This is also indicated by Tommy removing the countdown calendar from the door to full release, as he no longer needs it.