IDFA - Hospital

In this classic, award-winning documentary about a hospital, Frederick Wiseman juxtaposes daily routine with personal emotions in order paint a portrait of human dignity.

In 1970, Frederick Wiseman made this classic about the daily goings-on at New York City's Metropolitan Hospital. He juxtaposes routine with the emotions felt by sick individuals -- people who are balancing on the edge of human dignity. Poverty, neglect, alcohol, drugs, and violence take their victims here, but that is also true of the bureaucratic system, which would seem to be an impenetrable fortress. It certainly is the case for the psychiatrist of a black, gay, schizophrenic, teenaged male prostitute, who argues in vain with the merciless Mrs. Hightower of the welfare office on behalf of his patient. And what should be done with the little boy who was brought in and never picked up?

Another significant moment is the opening shot of a woman on a cross-shaped operating table -- she is quite literally at the mercy of the medical staff. Wiseman intersperses his observations in waiting and treatment rooms with close-ups of faces and routine actions. Combined with swift cuts and an intense soundtrack, the hectic atmosphere of the hospital feels more like a warzone. At the time of its release, the film generated heated debates about the effectiveness of the social welfare system in the U.S. It also won Emmys for the best news documentary and best director.

(idfa)