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Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Physician

Statue of Avicenna Ibn Sina
I am pretty sure this is in Adana, Turkey
On the surface The Physician is not a great movie. The characters are a little thin and their motivations transparent, but it deserves credit for even attempting the story at all. It attempts to cram about six full movies-worth of story into one. It runs two and a half hours.

We have some characters out of the history books:

and a real place with fictional sounding name:
  • Isfahan, a city in central Iran that has been there since before the beginning of recorded history.

Towards the end of the movie the Seljuk horde conquers the city. From the Wikipedia article, that seems to be plausible:
The Turkish conqueror and founder of the Seljuq dynasty, Toghril Beg, made Isfahan the capital of his domains in the mid-11th century; but it was under his grandson Malik-Shah I (r. 1073–92) that the city grew in size and splendour.
The story is basically about ignorance, the beginnings of medicine, and stupidity of religious fanatics. All stuff we know, but sometimes it's good to go back and review the basics. Whether our hero (the Christian Englishman masquerading as a Jew) was actually able to preform any of the medical miracles attributed to him is totally a matter of conjecture. Someone had to be first and it could well have been him. The knowledge from the first actual trials may not have survived. It may be that our first recorded instance of a successful medical procedure wasn't the first one. It may not even be the second or the tenth. It is just the first record we have. Prior to the printing press, our history is a little spotty.

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