How Autism Feels, From the Inside

What is it like to live with Asperger’s syndrome? Jordan Kamnitzer tries to answer that question in “Perfectly Normal,” this week’s Op-Doc. It’s beautifully directed by Joris Debeij, who frames Kamnitzer’s experiences and ideas with evocative cinematography and editing, giving us a beautiful but challenging glimpse into another way of being.

In a related essay, the writer Eli Gottlieb describes it as “a rare filmic experience of the sensory overload of autism … as Jordan, the articulate middle-aged subject of the film, speaks about his own condition, the music skitters and booms, rapid jump cuts intensify the sense of danger, and in this swelling moment of uncertainty, the viewer experiences a fleeting sense of what it might be like to live in a condition of permanent, anxious neural flood.”

Gottlieb grew up with a severely autistic older brother, but even after 40 years, “find[s] his emotional and cognitive process as fundamentally mysterious as ever. The impenetrability of autism, with its seemingly endless variants and its essential “otherness,” is its hallmark. All this renders Jordan’s testimony that much more useful and intriguing. He is a reporter at a hinge-point of consciousness, able to inhabit his condition while describing it for us — whether we are “neurotypicals” or lodged somewhere on the spectrum — with remarkable precision and insight.”

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