As both physician and filmmaker, Lilti discusses his recent hospital drama and the challenges of medical and artistic practice.
Last year, in 2014, Hippocrates played in Critics’ Week at the Festival de Cannes. This year, Thomas Lilti, the film’s director and co-writer, is back on the Croisette, having just finished shooting his third feature and taking a break from editing. That’s no mean feat for a filmmaker who’s also a primary care physician in Paris and has maintained a dual-career track since his salad days. Hippocrates, of course, refers to the Hippocratic oath and the challenges it faces in contemporary medical practice; in French, as Hippocrate (no “s”), the title is dangerously close to the word hypocrite.
Lilti has exploited to the full his own life experiences in this nuanced coming-of-age drama with strong political undertones. It is told from the point of view of twenty-three-year-old Benjamin (the emotionally supple Vincent Lacoste) as he starts a six-month internship at a large Paris hospital under the dubious tutelage of his father as head of the department. The public hospital, now run by corporate-style managers, is fraught with budgetary problems and ensuing staff and equipment shortages that strain priorities and patient care. The introduction of a second lead character, Abdel (Reda Kateb), an older, already qualified Algerian doctor who’s treated as an intern because of his immigrant status, greatly enriches the script’s dramatic potential as a solid collegial bond and friendship gradually develops between Abdel and Benjamin. Abdel offsets Benjamin’s inexperience and becomes the moral fulcrum of the film.[ Read More ]