Recently, I got the chance to see the movie “The Physician”. In essence, it’s about a boy who lost his mother to a mysterious illness. Also, he has special powers that let him know who will live and die from illness in advance. He is taken in by a “barber”, the medieval version of a doctor and learns medicine from him. However, in the middle ages, medicine was not as effective especially in Europe at the time and the boy, named Robert, wanted to learn more. The barber was getting cataracts and his sight was deteriorating, so Robert took him to Jewish doctors who cured his cataracts. The doctors told him that the best doctor to learn from was named Ibn Sina, who lived in the Islamic world. Robert ultimately said goodbye to the barber and left to go Persia where Ibn Sina taught. He disguised himself as a Jew since Christians weren’t admitted there. Along the way, he meets a woman named Rachel who was Jewish and falls in love with her. Their relationship is a minor side plot. Once in Persia, he tries to be admitted to Ibn Sina’s teaching hospital, but winds up being a patient there! Unbeknownst to him, Ibn Sina treated him and let him in. He learns there and is taken in by a Jewish family. Later on, a plague hits the city, brought on by a zealous Muslim group that is opposed to the ruler there and the hospital. They all find a way to treat the plague and the king of Persia commends them. Later on, the zealous group comes back and attacks the city while Robert and Ibn Sina treat the king himself for appendicitis, the mysterious ailment his mother had also. In return, the king lets them flee before the zealots get there, but they destroy the hospital, and Ibn Sina is too distraught to go on. Robert goes back to Europe and sets up his own hospital. The barber is still alive and hears the good news.
Overall, the movie was great! I loved the historical elements. They really did their research! The clothing is all period clothing and the sets are fantastic! The cultural elements played heavily, as one got to witness the various Jewish and Muslim rituals as well as Christian ones too. The biggest theme was pursuing knowledge and enlightenment. Also, how to treat patients ethically. I was surprised that the movie touched on some controversial themes so frankly, such as religion playing a part in hindering the pursuit of knowledge, such as the Christian church forbade secular medicine and the Muslim zealots also tried to suppress the hospital. Another big part of the story line was that Robert wanted to dissect a human cadaver, a huge taboo in all three religions. However, religion also played a better part as the Jews and Muslims could coexist and learn together. The movie placed religion in a central spot too, as many religious customs were shown such as the call to prayer and Jews praying and laying tefillin among many examples. Many movies skirt around that as to not offend or polarize the film unless it’s about religion entirely. The movie beautifully portrayed each religion in a frank yet balanced way.
I still think though, that the central theme was the pursuit of knowledge. Robert throughout the film always wanted to learn more and more. He was the most determined pupil of Ibn Sina and even clashed on the dissection issue. It was painful for him to leave the barber too, but he did because he wanted to learn more. The most unique thing was that most films don’t cover such narrow topics. The Islamic golden Age was an original setting to have a movie in! I liked the precision in the story and the fact that basically no movies have really been set in that era. The plot and character development was excellent, it was in depth and wasn’t dumbed down. Also, it wasn’t all sex and violence, although they do occur in the film. The love story didn’t dominate the whole plot line, but was weaved into it nicely. The film is good for hardcore history lovers but I bet med students can relate to it too! Overall, excellent movie!
You can see the full movie on Putlocker