Tuesday, October 29, 2013


2001, 98m, Mike Nichols
Vivian Bearing, a professor specializing in the poetry of John Donne, is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. As she progresses through the course of large does of chemotherapy, she analyses her feelings with minuteness as she senses the approach of death. The sanitized, efficient, mechanical and indifferent environment of the hospital turns her into a thing, powerless as she sinks. The film, for the most part, is in the form of a monologue, as she speaks out her thoughts to us, the audience. As a person who has spent her life mastering language, this format is admirably appropriate in articulating her complex emotions. Time, scarce as it is, crawls and stretches in the isolation ward. She falls back on the poetry of her beloved poet as her solace. But Donne is not enough. As she says, "I thought I was extremely smart. But I seem to have been found out." Seeing a second time after many years, it does not make the same impression. But it gives a glimpse of human frailty when people face the end. Learning does not seem to count for much. "Learning, genius, power, wealth, reputation, science, technology --- all become nothing when one is confronted by death."

No comments: