Thomas Lilti's Hippocrates is a darkly comic and deeply sobering expose of the French public medical system, following Benjamin, a new medical intern who is attempting to adjust to the fast-paced, high-stress environment. Overwhelmed but a good doctor, Benjamin loses a patient due to hospital negligence, with the hospital staff covering it up to avoid a lawsuit. Writer/Director Thomas Lilti was a physician and it shows in Hippocrates, a film that provides a deep, pensive look into the public health services system, showing how this corporatization conflicts with the most important job of a doctor, putting the patient first. Capturing the the budget cuts and supply shortages, Hippocrates really speaks to how this can wear a doctor down emotionally and physically. I don't think it's a mistake that the one character who represents a man willing to fight for the system is a foreigner in Abdel, an Algerian physician who has demoted himself down to intern in France, just for sake of him and his families' immigrant status. Featuring a fine performance by Rada Kateb, Abel is a symbol of hope, a man who eventually awakens Benajamin to the need to fight for the patients. A scene towards the end of the film is a transparent moment, with Thomas Lilti unleasing all of his frustration about the system in an explosive scene that sees many of the hospital staff, mostly interns, stand up for themselves and their patients after another near tragedy. Whats funny about this film is that intentionally or not, it also speaks to the inherent selfishness of humanity, with the staff only speaking up about the problems after one of their own is seriously injured and in their care. Hippocrates never feels heavy-handed, and perhaps the comedic element helps with that, but my favorite aspect of the film pertains to how it captures the rough life of doctors. For me, Hippocrates is more intersting in the perspective that everyone deals with tough situations in different ways, some doctors go cold, others deny, but for some the pain is too much, heading them on a collision course with hospital admistrators. I particuarly liked an exchange between Benjamin and his friend in intensive care, each having very diferent mindsets and perspectives when it comes to dealing with patients. Hippocrates also acknowledges the bond that is shared between almost all hospital staff, almost doing so out of survival, being a family in a world of sorrow. Given the filmmaker's knowledge of this situation, Thomas Lilti's Hippocrates is an authentic and informative look into the corporatization of hospitals that dark comedic approach makes it easier to stomach.
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