Converging of Elements in the Insane Asylum Episode of "Lifeforce"
The episode within Lifeforce taking place at the asylum for the criminally insane marks a critical point in the film: it is the point at which Lifeforce leaves behind the government science facility of the film's first half and enters the grassy, populated termite hills of the outside world.
Multiple trickles of elements seem to converge in this middle segment, which exists like an island between the two halves of the formal action film. It serves as a plummet to the termite's earthy mound, and triggers consecutively two scenes of the film's most recognizably intimate, genuinely physical interactions. This is the most wild and human section in the film, where finally the first true interaction with the civilian trail the government fellows must follow leads to an amicable communion with a masochist and the insinuating of our heroes into a bed of the insane (people who cannot decide for themselves self versus impulse, cases that bring to a piteous apex the film's study of impulse versus being versus social being). In this section of the film, Carlsen's bond with the Space Girl becomes no longer just neurotic memories or psychic manifestations from Carlsen's mind but enters a corporeal face-to-face with her via Patrick Stewart as proxy, while her modus operandi is wryly spelled out to us via the twist about the girl's multiple body-jumps, which imply another wild equalization of human interaction if we map exactly the space girl's peculiar path through bodies, bodies which must have interacted for the passing to occur, but interactions we are not privy to see (more on that later).
Dealing even with Patrick Stewart's Doctor Armstrong, chief of an institution but of the civilian class nonetheless, these government men begin their escapade in the general populace with an equal parts taciturn, equal parts humorous interaction with the perhaps too jovial, perhaps too self-controlled Armstrong, whose position as head of a mental hospital turns out much more disposed to secrecy (as we'll soon see when his secret comes out), in contrast to government or military men, vulnerable to the circumscription of their bureaucracy, or, as in this film, called upon to air their dirty laundry for the obligations of official duty.
This taciturn yet humorous interaction between Armstrong (who insists to introduce them to the nurse) and the men (who want him to grant them a private interaction) is a beguiling moment, drolly acted/directed whilst filmed with crisp visual idea. Steven Railsback turns down Patrick Stewart with his entire body and an obliged (but also rather hilariously indulgent) smile on his face, Aubrey Morris swoops in on Stewart's arm to kindly pull him away, and, once swooped away, Firth and Hooper's camera quite appropriately sweep in on the two's coming together around the matter-at-hand intercom. This moving master shot and really the entirety of the film's tone is one of drollness and simultaneous seriousness. Rather than anything schticky coming across, the humor comes from somewhere particularly invented and formal (such as the inventive performance/interaction creation, and through the formal camera) and Hooper's tonal creation is the rarest-to-pin-down subtlety of idea.