24 hours in the life of a hospital from the point of view of the doctors and nurses.
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24 hours in the life of a hospital from the point of view of the doctors and nurses.

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Documentary | Short

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June 1977 (Poland)  »

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Hospital  »

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This short film is featured on the 2-Disc Criterion Collection DVD for The Double Life of Veronique (1991). See more »

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32 hours in the life of an orthopaedic operating team
16 April 2006 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

A pure documentary made in the classic style without commentary covering 32 hours (one shift) in an orthopaedic wing of a busy hospital. This is another workplace documentary where the point of view is from the workers, in this case the doctors and nurses. The patients are barely glimpsed and only heard talking to the doctors. Most cases are surgical in nature, especially the dire emergency cases and there are many scenes in the operating room.

It might seem that the doctors are operating in the most primitive condition but this is because people are unaware of what actually goes on in an operating room. A steel rod is inserted in a thigh to straighten a broken tibia and knocked into place with a steel mallet. In another shot a mallet breaks while hammering something else into a patient (it looks like a cold chisel) and a substitute is used, the flat side of some other tool obviously used for something completely different. Recently I had a liver biopsy done and in this age of marvelous machines which go ping and other medical miracles I was somewhat surprised to find that the instrument for the procedure looked like a woodworker's awl of a triangular cross section which was simply rammed into my side and withdrawn. This is why patients are given general anesthetics rather than locals because if they were given locals they'd loose control of their bowels and die to see what was being done.

The doctors and nurses take this all in their stride and develop early in their careers an attitude of having seen it all and just get on with their work. They have a special sense of humor from the mordancy of the work. The delivery of some liverwurst prompts one doctor to phone a colleague inviting them to the feast. If you think this is all primitive and somehow bespeaks a certain lack of something then you've missed the point. Medicine is more than a bunch of fancy machines and super drugs - it's these people and Kieslowski, working in a minor key, celebrates this.

In a very Kieslowskian coincidence, according to Annette Insdorf, though offered the services of foreign hospitals, Kieslowski insisted on having his heart bypass surgery in a Warsaw hospital where he died under anesthesia, the story goes, because the staff couldn't handle an newly arrived machine from the west.


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