Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thoughts on the movie "Wit"

The class I'm auditing requires reading, talking, and viewing movies, and then writing about the book, conversation, movie. Because I am only auditing, I don't have to turn in any writing. But, I hope to sign up as a "real" student next semester, so I'm trying to keep up with the assignments.

The movie "Wit" was assigned as part of the unit on anxiety and depression. It's a difficult movie to watch - a stern college professor is diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer, agrees to go through clinical trial, and becomes the property of the hospital and the researchers. Emma Thompson is wonderful as the main character, of course. But the character, Vivian, was hard to empathize with. I had a hard time caring a bit about her and whether she lived or died, whether she was comfortable, well-treated, in the hospital.

Her coldness was an important part of the movie, as was her treatment at the hands of the medical establishment. Coincidentally (haha), the main researcher/doctor assigned to her case was a former student of hers. He remembered how tough she was. This led him to conclude she was tough enough to withstand the treatments he was giving her. She had treated her students in much the same way as her doctors treated her: no mercy, no kindness, no compassion. As she progressed in her illness, scenes of her coldness toward her students came back to her. I could not be sure if she really felt regret over that, though. It was easy to see why she had no visitors; though she claimed not to want any, it was clear there was no one who would want to visit her.

Only twice did I feel like crying (and I am a crier by nature). The first was when her former professor came to visit after learning about her hospitalization from Vivian's office and read a children's book to her as she slept. It was a sweet moment. The second was the scene wherein Vivian and her nurse shared a popsicle and discussed her code status: did she want to be revived if her heart stopped? These other women, the elderly professor and the nurse, were the only touches of humanity in the movie.

The end really showed the coldness of the medical profession. I had a hard time believing that hospital personnel are capable of such "noncaring" toward the people they are caring for. Maybe "caring for" is the wrong term here. There did not seem to be much caring.

Oh, Vivian's subject was "Metaphysical Poetry." John Donne. So we had the opportunity, repeatedly, to hear:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Yes, it seemed a little contrived. Though I suppose there are worse things to be reciting as one contemplates one's own (imminent) death. But then again, this is pretty good:

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."
(Isaiah 43:1-7)

Or this, short and sweet: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5b


LynAC said...

good post. good review. I think I will look for the movie....

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Now you have me curious about this movie. I'll have to watch it.

Also...I am in agreement with you about the Bible passages. Much better to contemplate! :o)

Edward H said...

If you ever have the chance to see a live production, do. With the right actors, it's a totally different story. Well, the same, but different.