Electric Malady         Edinburgh International Film Festival

Electrosensitivity, the subject of Swedish born, Scotland domiciled director Marie Liden’s documentary, is something that affects around 1.3% of the world’s population. And yet there is a reluctance among some medical professionals to accept that it is an illness in its own right.

Liden, however, speaks from personal experience – her mother suffered from this for a number of years but thankfully has made a full recovery. And perhaps this shared experience helps her make a connection with William, the subject of this sympathetic and touching film.

Living a solitary life in the Swedish countryside, separated from family and friends and unable to venture outside for more than a few minutes at a time, and then only when covered in his linen blanket, his previous life is no more than a memory. A memory that ranged from his studies at university in Gothenburg to playing in bands and partaking of the nightlife along with his peers. Until he began to regularly get sick, and the diagnosis was that he was suffering from electrosensitivity.

The bottom line is that the sufferer cannot have contact with electromagnetic fields without suffering badly. Given that in this modern world we are surrounded by pylons and phone masts and there’s wifi, television, radio and more to contend with, respite does not come easy.

His isolation is almost total, broken only by occasional visits from his parents, his only distractions being books and cds – his small cd player encased in a cage to minimise any radiation. At the time of filming, William had been living like that for 10 years, with no promise of either cure or recovery. I can only imagine that bad though it must have been at the time when Liden’s mother suffered, it must be so much worse now in this world where everyone carries a mobile phone and so is turned from friend to enemy for those like William.

Electric Malady is indeed bleak, but is made with sensitivity and compassion, shedding light on an affliction that seems to be all too readily dismissed by many of those who might otherwise be in a position to help. While the film itself may not bring relief to William and his fellow sufferers, bringing electrosensitivity and what it means to the attention of a wider audience can surely only prove helpful in the long run.

Jim Welsh

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