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An Animated Tribute to the Mind of Oliver Sacks

The Animated Mind of Oliver Sacks is an animated feature film about one of modern psychology’s most brilliant and unique characters.

To the people who knew him, the writings of English neurologist, Oliver Sacks, often occurred to him while he was swimming (a physical activity he undertook almost every day, for decades). When an idea or paragraph came to him, immediately, he returned to dry land where paper and pen waited and he wrote them down. Similar to several English Romantic poets —especially William Wordsworth who composed poetry while walking— the anecdote allows a glimpse into a deeply special mind. This has been captured by director and producer, Dempsey Rice, in a recent animated feature film about Sacks, The Animated Mind of Oliver Sacks.

The scene of Sacks swimming in a lake is part of the film’s trailer and represents but a little taste of several details of the story. In 1982, while mountaineering, Sacks suffered an accident that took away all feeling in his left leg, something that might be intuited from this small segment of the film. One can see how the words emerge while Sacks submerges himself, and the film narrates the story of the scientist and writer sending the manuscript of the book to the publishing house, Summit Books. There, James Silberman, the editor in chief, was deeply surprised to receive the hand-written manuscript, something that he hadn’t seen in about 30 years.

A good part of the material that inspired this beautiful film came from conversations that Sacks had with Rice over the course of a decade. The way the neurologist perceived his patients, as complete persons and not as isolated disorders, made his books —The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat being but the most famous among them— resonate with such force and to so broad an audience. The animated film (which began as a Kickstarter project) is a fitting tribute to one of our era’s most important neurologists, and to one of the most strange and dazzling minds that history has yet witnessed.


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