Red Beard

Fucking A, this is a riot. The sparse orchestral score is the cherry on top. Not to be confused with Blackbeard, Blue Beard, or any other colourful facial hair.

A bunch of minor plots wrapped in a framing device: a Bildungsroman, where a cocky young trainee doctor gets assigned to some clinic for the poor in the sticks learns that medicine is more than coldly prescriptions and diagnosis, and that he barely knows anything straight out of med school.

He’s there to replace some other intern, who shows him around and paints a very bleak picture of the place. In particular, the feared and loathed Red Beard, the chief physician and all around pain in the ass.

At first he resents the assignment, sees the regulations as restraints on his freedom, and vows to try to get kicked out for making a nuisance at every step. He thinks his teachers assigned him to this undeserved location as punishment, and thinks that Red Beard is a lower class thief, wanting to take advantage of his top-of-the-line foreign education.

Red Beard just ignores him from the start, which only increases the resentment. He has a immediate encounter with a special mental patient, nicknamed “The Mantis” for killing several men in several beds, and Red Beard saves his life.

Eventually he begrudgingly sees a patient in his last throes. This experience shakes him to the core, and starts to chip away at his exterior shell. This is repeated when another man dies while he cares for him, telling him his life story. By this time it’s impossible for him to ignore the epiphany and he falls in line. The next experiences deepen his commitment and make him a true believer in the culture and ethos from the man he once hated.

There are other stunning experiences on the clinic:

  • surgery shown in gory detail (“oops, her intestine slipped out, push it inside fast!”). Our hero just faints at this.
  • they visit the local “nunnery” (in the Shakespearean parlance), where they rescue a little girl and Red Beard kick the shit out of the pimps “protecting” them. This comes out of nowhere and cements his reputation as a even more resolute and irascible doctor.
  • Red Beard visits a rich aristocrat for a home call. He is merely fat from idleness and too much food. For scratching the menu he charges a preposterous amount of money, to be funnelled back to the clinic
  • Red Beard complaining that most people’s problems are poverty and ignorance, but that if he tries to do something about it as a doctor, it enters into the realm of politics.

This is my place for ramblings about sequences of images that exploit the human visual limitation know as persistence of vision.

Ephemera of Vision