Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Hospital

The Hospital; drama / satire, USA, 1971; D: Arthur Hiller, S: George C. Scott, Diana Rigg, Barnard Hughes, Richard Dysart

A young intern, Dr. Schaefer, is found dead in the hospital bed, because he overslept there and the nurse mistakenly thought he was a patient, and gave him insulin iv infusion. To Dr. Herbert Bock, who is already suicidally depressed and estranged from his family, this is the last thing he needs right now, especially since dozens of people are protesting against eviction of a building which is suppose to be used for the expansion of the hospital. Herbert meets a woman, Barbara, who brought her ill father to the hospital, and starts a relationship with her, which returns his spirit in life. After another doctor dies, and a nurse, due to maltreatment, Herbert and Barbara find out that her father was actually the culprit, since he intended to punish doctors by having them pass through their own institution while sick. Barbara and her father flee to the south, while Herbert refuses to escape with them, instead choosing to stay in the hospital.

Arthur Hiller's satirical drama "The Hospital" is a cinematic 'pyrrhic victory': on one hand, it features several moments of brilliance, mostly through the admirable dialogues and a triumphant performance by George C. Scott, which cannot be denied, but on the other hand, it seems strangely vague and inexplicably unsatisfying, almost hollow in structure, as if it exhausted itself through its own over-ambitious tone. Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky again demonstrated a sixth sense for delicious, inspired lines, some of which deserve to be placed on the Pantheon of best writing in cinema, but, alas, unlike his other Oscar winning scripts, "Marty" - that talked about lonely people who cannot find a partner - and "Network" - that talked about the effects of TV and mass media on the lives of the people - this storyline seems as if it does not know what it is about - there are some vague references to the main protagonist, a doctor, who feels how his life and his hospital are sick and unhealthy - yet it is strangely vague and without a clear point, forcing the viewers to be left with the impression that the authors did not direct the flow of the episodic narrative into a cohesive whole.

The movie starts off with an excellent-satirical intro: an old man is diagnosed with angina and sent to a hospital, but the narrator says: "It is axiomatic that nursing home doctors are always wrong. The intern who admitted the patient, however, accepted the diagnosis and prescribed morphine, a drug suitable for angina, but not at all suitable for emphysema, which is unfortunately what the old man had." The old man died after an hour, and the intern, Dr. Schaefer used his empty patient bed to have sex with his girlfriend that night. The story makes yet another cynical twist, when Dr. Schaefer is found dead in the bed the next morning, because the nurse thought he was a patient and gave him an overdose of insulin. What this great little intro assembles, the remained of the movie does not quite follow up, though: the main storyline, revolving around Dr. Herbert, is indecisive and chaotic, whereas his relationship with Barbara, a one-dimensional character, is unconvincing, especially considering the ending, whereas the protestors subplot seems like a fitfth wheel. Still, as already mentioned, some of the quotes from the movie are fantastic ("Are you impotent?" - "Intermittently." - "What does that mean?" - "I haven't tried for so long that I don't know anymore." / "Some post-graduate came here and performed an autopsy?" / "Some cockamany 25-year old acid-head is going to assure me about menopause right now!" / "I'd like to know what you have against me, doctor?" - "This is the 3rd time in two years that we had to patch-up your patients. The other two died. You are greedy, unfeeling, inept, indifferent, self-inflating and unconscionably profitable. Other than that, I have nothing against you. I am sure you play one heck of a game of golf. What else do you wanna know?")


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