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Sybil 30th Anniversary 2-Disc Edition
Joanne Woodward, Sally Field, Brad Davis
Based on the book by Flora Rheta Schreiber
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Made for television 1976
Warner Home Video 2006
187 minutes plus 1 DVD with many extras
The mystery here is just exactly who is Sybil. Sybil is the made for TV movie starring Joanne Woodward and Sally Field that allowed Field to put to rest Gidget and Sister Bertrille, the Flying Nun. Field gives the performance of a lifetime in Sybil by playing the 13 characters that inhabit this troubled woman. Sybil 30th Anniversary Edition is a well-made re-release.
It all begins when Sybil, or as you will learn later one of the characters who inhabit her, cuts her wrist breaking a window in a fit of rage. She finds herself in the hospital and talking to a psychologist brought in on a consult. The psychologist quickly figures out something is wrong. What helps the viewer is the occasional shot of Sally Field looking at herself in a mirror so the viewer can see the character that has taken over Sybil. There are a couple of other eerie moments such as when Matthew, the young son of a man who befriends Sybil (Brad Davis as Richard), immediately recognizes Sybil is not there when one of the personas come for a visit.
Though Sybil is 3 hours long there is not really a slow moment in this made for television movie that, on DVD, looks like a big screen production. The first breakthrough comes at about the halfway point when the doctor, Joanne Woodward, confronts Sybil Dorset with her other personas. Oddly enough, the breakthrough also happens around Christmas time, a particularly hard time for everybody. It is here that both Sally Field and director Daniel Petrie really shine in this production.
Doctor Cornelia Wilbur (Joanne Woodward in a solid and generous performance) slowly unravels the truth behind what happened to Sybil that caused her to create so many different people within her so as to cope with her many terrible childhood traumas. If you think Kathy Bates was good in creepy in Misery, you have not seen Martine Bartlett as Sybil’s mother.
This is certainly not a movie for those who are sensitive. Though it is not violent, it definitely has the ability to wound those with a weak psyche. Just when you think all is well, it gets even darker. The ending to this movie is really interesting and well though-out.
The second DVD in Sybil 30th Anniversary Special Edition is where the extras are included. There is an interview with the rather pompous screenwriter, information on the casting and production that reveal how much of a challenge it was to get this movie on television and how hard they had to fight to give the role to Sally Field. Other features include a feature on the real Sybil’s paintings.