CMAJ                                                                                                              Humaniti...

                                                             film progresses, she becomes involved         one...
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Hippocrates in quebec film review


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Hippocrates in quebec film review

  1. 1. CMAJ Humanities Film Hippocrates in Quebec: The films of Bernard Émond Previously published at R epresentations of the physician in popular cinema typically range from doctor as super- hero to conscientious caregiver to, occasionally, cruel or indifferent mon- ster. Regardless of the nature of these representations, however, the physi- cian has been invariably depicted as someone who has access to profound and mysterious knowledge. In the Canadian cinema specifically, Les Films Séville / E1 Entertainment there are a number of fascinating physi- cians, both good and bad: the pedophil- iac predator David Sutton in Anne Wheeler’s Loyalties (1986); the deranged twin gynecologists in David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1989); the sweetly altruistic, if socially naive, com- munity saviour Dr. Christopher Lewis in Seducing Doctor Lewis (2003). While In La Donation, Dr. Jeanne Dion, a Montréal, Quebec, emergency department physi- these films probe the social, economic cian, continues to search for a larger meaning within her chosen profession. and even political implications of med- ical practice, their dramas generally do not explore the complexities and, yes, the Christian ideals of faith, hope and it is a process that is largely unspoken. mysteries of the underlying philosophy charity (both available in English subti- Dion attempts to balance compassion of why one actually becomes a physi- tled DVD versions). They are exquis- and dispassion in her professional self cian in the first place. itely rendered, quiet dramas revolving while confronting, on a more personal Perhaps such philosophy cannot be around the life of Dr. Jeanne Dion, a level, the deeper and perhaps more filmed; on the other hand, perhaps it Montréal, Quebec, emergency depart- spiritual mysteries of life and death, can. One acclaimed Canadian film- ment doctor faced with crises of con- suffering and healing. maker is attempting to do just that. science about her profession and its A more thorough dramatization of Imagine that on your travels along the larger meaning in the world. these questions occurs in The Legacy. Saint Lawrence River or to the Abitibi The Novena is the story of Dion’s Its philosophical drama is set in Normè- region of Quebec you come face-to-face flight from the chaos of Montréal, where tal, a small town in the Abitibi region of with Hippocrates. Not literally, of she witnesses a terrible incident involv- Quebec. It begins when the elderly course, but you will encounter, in the ing one of her patients. Driving east, she town doctor, Yves Rainville, becomes thoughtful films of writer-director ends up in a small town where she ill and advertises for a physician to Bernard Émond an investigation into encounters François, a young man on a replace him temporarily. When Dion how the role of the physician requires a religious pilgrimage to save his dying drives to Normétal to fill the position, renewed recognition of the philosophy of grandmother. Dion’s existential and pro- she is impressed by Rainville’s philoso- Hippocrates and a careful consideration fessional crises are recast in the context phy of medicine in his modest, but DOI:10.1503/cmaj.100422 of the consequences of embracing that of her friendship with François and her longstanding practice. She tells him of philosophy in one’s medical practice. helping him, as a physician, to accept how she feels “outside the suffering” of Émond’s two films La Veuvaine the inevitable fate of his beloved grand- her patients, and seeks a way back (The Novena) (2005) and La Donation mother. toward the more holistic approach (The Legacy) (2009) are the first and The healing is mutual for these char- advocated by Hippocrates and seem- third parts of a trilogy of films based on acters and, as always in Émond’s films, ingly embodied by Rainville. As the CMAJ • APRIL 20, 2010 • 182(7) 701 © 2010 Canadian Medical Association or its licensors
  2. 2. Humanities film progresses, she becomes involved ones. What these understated, medita- minded and practical for a physician, with his patients and the complexities of tive films do register is a sense of med- and it inspires Dion with the quiet their medical conditions and their lives. icine as a vocation with spiritual con- force of its example. Near the film’s conclusion, she has to notations, as if the mystery of the Émond’s depiction of Dion’s crises, decide whether she is prepared to take human soul must be seen to be part of her sense of her limitations as a doctor on Rainville’s practice permanently. how medicine is practised in a world and her shaken but not destroyed com- Dion’s twin journeys don’t offer of advanced scientific technologies and mitment to compassion, is as sobering simplistic resolutions to her profes- treatments. Rainville states matter-of- as it is hopeful. sional quandaries, nor do they romanti- factly that he is “here to serve.” His The films intelligently raise impor- cize rural medical practices over urban humility appears genuine, tough- tant moral, ethical and philosophical questions about the role of the physi- cian in society. These are the same questions raised by Hippocrates, ques- tions that are both essential and, in a paradoxical sense, unanswerable. What is essential is not their being answered but rather the raising and reframing of these questions, as medical science evolves, in contemporary social con- texts and changing medical practices. Films like The Novena and The Legacy Les Films Séville / E1 Entertainment contribute to that process in both useful and aesthetically impressive ways. Tom McSorley Executive director Canadian Film Institute Ottawa, Ont. Tom McSorley is a sessional lecturer in the Dion takes on a small-town practice in the Abitibi region of Quebec and discovers the Department of Film Studies at Carleton Univer- way back toward a more compassionate approach to medicine. sity, Ottawa, Ont. and film critic for CBC Radio One’s, Ottawa Morning. Note Wanted: Historical artifacts for new public health school W hy decorate walls with cate awarded to the International Physi- the objects to put on a website. “I accent colours and bad art cians for Prevention of Nuclear War know, it’s an age-inappropriate activ- when you can use the space and art about mental illness. The build- ity,” quips Frank. “But some parents to educate the public and students? ing is slated to open in summer 2010. like to play soccer or hockey with That’s the thinking behind the proposed Frank is looking to borrow other pub- their kids; I like to work with mine.” public health museum (both actual and lic health related artifacts (erica.frank Frank-White has attended all the plan- virtual) at the School of Population and ning meetings and helped to situate Public Health’s newly renovated build- Many of the objects will be accom- the exhibit spaces. ing at the University of British Colum- panied by a narrative and photograph “It’s going to be great,” says Frank. bia, Vancouver, BC. of a person who benefited from the “It sure beats hanging trite motivational “We already have some remarkable object. For example, a woman whose posters on the wall.” objects,” says Dr. Erica Frank, a pro- father was in an iron lung for two years DOI:10.1503/cmaj.100165 fessor at the school and the museum’s will write about how that experience Barbara Sibbald BJ organizer. These include an iron lung, allowed her to exist. Deputy editor, analysis and humanities quarantine signs, an old British Colum- Another twist is that this summer’s CMAJ bia Centre for Disease Control public intern will be Frank’s 12-year-old health laboratory, immunization para- son, Ridge Frank-White, who will be Erica Frank is a member of the CMAJ phernalia, the Nobel Peace prize certifi- making a photographic record of all editorial board. 702 CMAJ • APRIL 20, 2010 • 182(7) © 2010 Canadian Medical Association or its licensors