The physician: the acclaimed novel of the same name gets it's big-screen makeover in a sweeping epic which sheds light on one of medieval Persia's medical pioneers.

Author:Kadivar, Darius
Position:Mosaic/FILM - Movie review
 
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ADAPTED FROM NOAH GORDON'S 1987 BEST seller about a medieval doctor and his journey to Persia, budgeted at $35m, with exteriors shot in Germany and Morocco, the period drama The Physician starring Ben Kingsley, Stellan Skarsgard and Tom Payne has been nearly 25 years in the making. The novel was a global best-seller--particularly in Germany, where it became one of the most-read books of all time. The motion picture adaptation however, was delayed year after year due to a fierce competition for its screen rights, as well as multiple rewritten scripts which never got the author's full approval until German director Philipp Stolzl and the Berlin-based production group UFA Cinema convinced the Boston based writer with their vision.

The movie tells the story of young Englishman Rob Cole (Tom Payne), who is both blessed and cursed with the ability to sense when someone is about to die. He tries to study medicine, but medieval England is a backwater of religious quacks and superstition. Orphaned at an early age, he is apprenticed to an itinerant barber surgeon (Stellan Skarsgard), the medieval equivalent of a snake oil salesman, flimflam man, and healer all rolled into one. Rob travels the English countryside along with his devious tutor lancing boils, treating coughs, and hawking their all-cure elixir, which is nothing more than apple brandy mixed with a host of questionable herbs. It is in one of the villages that Rob discovers his gift to foresee a patient's death with a touch of a hand. At first, he is horrified by the discovery, having experienced the same morbid sensation when as a child he touched his mother's hand the day before she died. Although wary of being accused of witchcraft, the gift continues to manifest itself as years go by and Rob begins to realise that healing may after all be his destiny.

When his mentor dies 10 years later, Rob, now a young man, is free to pursue his calling. Hearing of a gifted physician and teacher in faraway Persia, he sets off from his English purgatory, on a dangerous journey through the bandit-plagued countryside of Byzantine Europe, Turkey, and Syria. He disguises himself as a lew, in a bid to study his craft, at the best medical university in Persia's most enchanting city, Isfahan. Dubbed 'Nesfeh Jahan' or 'Half the world' since the dawn of time, 11th century Isfahan is also reputed to tolerate Jews as opposed to crusading Christians. We are reminded that what became known in the West as the Dark...

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