Wit

Julia Bolzon
2020
I watched Wit this past summer out of my interest in how film can be used to explore bioethical themes, and have not stopped thinking about it since. Starring Emma Thompson as Professor Vivian Bearing, who undergoes experimental treatment for stage four metastatic ovarian cancer, the 2001 film is based on the 1998 play by Margaret Edson.[1] I discovered it in the anthologies Bioethics at the Movies(2009) and The Picture of Health: Medical Ethics and Movies (2011), featured for its portrayal of
more » ... r its portrayal of the patient-physician relationship and the drama over the patient's 'do not resuscitate' order. But the film is so much more than these isolated matters. It treats the profound human realities of suffering, pain, and death with sublimity; realities that—when not rejected or ignored—are where man begins to receive answers to his deepest existential questions. Weaving Vivian's memories with her current reality in the hospital, Wit depicts the existential phenomena that occur in times of medical crisis and at the frontier of death. Such universal moments, when paid attention to, become pedagogic —teaching us something about what it means to be human. Dependency and Need An overarching theme of the film is its portrayal of the human condition in a state of utter dependency and need. By chronicling Vivian's experimental treatment through first-person narrative, the film offers a window into the world of a patient suffering and dying of cancera reality that remains unknown except through personal experience. Vivian's condition, however, is not limited to those who suffer with cancer, but instead becomes a lens through which the condition of the suffering patient can be explored and identified with. There are multiple moments where Vivian's mounting fears are too much for her to bear, and amidst her anxiety she reaches out for humanpresence by calling for her nurse, Susie. Like a child who is afraid of being left alone, Vivian seeks reassurance that she is not going to be abandoned in her confrontation with death: "Susie? ... You're [...]
doi:10.7916/vib.v1i.5941 fatcat:faq3tqwghjdxre7zw3ojnpgwz4