Czech Hugo Haas made a lot of overblown, trashy dramas in America in the 1950s (see 'Edge of Hell', 'Bait' and 'Hold Back Tomorrow') but back in the 1930s, he was a very well-respected actor/director/writer in Europe. 'Bílá nemoc' is a classic example of the work that led to Haas' high reputation, a thought-provoking, political/science fiction drama.
In an unnamed country (which is led by a warmongering Marshall) a disease, which only affects the over 50s, begins to spread. While the government-financed clinics fail to find an answer, backstreet GP Dr. Galen (played by Haas) discovers a cure.
After proving the cure's authenticity, Dr. Galen informs the press that he will treat the poor immediately but will only treat the rich if the Marshall, who is about to declare war on a neighbouring country, signs a peace treaty. Naturally, the Marshall refuses to accept the conditions and sends his men to bring the good doctor to him
Although obviously an anti-war film (released just a couple of years before WWII), the characters are not simply black and white. Dr. Galen, who is a pacifist, actually stands by and lets people die to stand by his threat. The Marshall on the other hand, doesn't act as ruthless as you may expect - for instance he never threatens to torture Galen to obtain the cure and actually does release eventually him. Both characters are given interesting, believable background stories and justifications for their very different outlooks on life.
An intelligent film which is charmingly naïve in many respects, simply for asking for normality in a mad world.
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