Medicine in film

Film and medicine have entered into a diverse, multifaceted, and interesting relationship with each other basically since the very beginnings of the tenth muse. On the one hand, documentary film has made it possible to popularize medical knowledge and document the cases used in medical examinations; on the other hand, feature films have dramatized in various ways (and still do) both the relationship between patient and doctor, as well as the spiritual struggles of medics trying to serve in often unfavorable circumstances.

World cinema abounds in both good doctors, fighting for the progress of their field (Ɓukasz Palkowski’s Gods, Preston Sturges’ The Great Moment, Joseph Sargent’s Something the Lord Made, Arthur Penn’s The Miracle Worker), and demonic or merely evil ones, using the power over the patient’s body for morally suspicious purposes (Michael Crichton’s Coma, Urszula Antoniak’s Code Blue, Lars Von Trier’s The Kingdom).

Medicine in film

The hospital itself becomes a space for various types of performance, including musical spectacle (Bob Fosse’s All That Hustle, Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective, Kornel Mundruczo’s Joan) and comedy farce (Robert Altman’s MASH and its series sequel; Arthur Penn’s Hospital). The constant tension of doctors fighting for the lives of their patients has also proved a colorful backdrop for medical melodrama, from its early incarnations, such as Ryszard Boleslawski’s People in White, to current series hits, such as Grey’s Anatomy and The Knick.

Another issue is the way medicine is present in documentary films: both instructional, when the cinema has a real impact on the professionals’ understanding of medical issues, and artistic, when (as in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Hospital or Frederick Wiseman’s Near Death) the filmmakers try to get closer to the nature of the doctor-patient relationship and capture it in an almost philosophical way.

The black dahlia movie

“Among the grasses lay the naked, mangled corpse of a young woman, split in two, at waist height. The lower half rested among the weeds, a few feet from the upper, with her legs spread wide. A large, triangular piece of skin and tissue had been cut from the left thigh […] The mouth had been cut from ear to ear, producing the illusion of a smile that seemed to mock the rest of the brutal injuries inflicted on the victim.”

“The Black Dahlia” was the nickname given to Elizabeth Short by the press; a woman who was brutally murdered in 1947 in Los Angeles. The perpetrator was never apprehended. The corpse was found in two parts, cut up, stripped of internal organs. The body was adorned with a gruesomely knife-enhanced grin from ear to ear. The sweet, charming woman turned out to have more secrets than initially thought; dark details of the den mother’s life came to light during the investigation.

This murder had huge implications in pop culture, primarily American; to this day, speculation and conjecture continue as to who is to blame for Short’s death. The case’s impact on mass culture is reflected in numerous publications, several films, and many books, and even in metal band names and song lyrics. The most famous stories based on the story of this murder are James Ellroy’s book, which was later brought to the screen by Brian De Palma in 2006.

Since I have a weakness for crime stories based on true events, I was happy to pick up “The Black Dahlia,” the story of one of the most mysterious murders committed in the United States. The poor reviews didn’t discourage me, on the contrary – I was even more eager to find out if those who gave the book low ratings were right.
They weren’t.


It’s the dark Los Angeles of the late 1940s, a time when police officers were recruited straight from the boxing ring, and when all you needed was a lockpick instead of a warrant to enter someone’s apartment. During the autopsy, the pathologist smoked a cigar and the officers smoked cigarettes, because “it won’t hurt the deceased anymore”. Patrolling the dirty streets of the City of Angels are two former boxers from the Enforcement Division, Lee Blanchard and Bucky Bleichert – once rivals in the ring, now friends and partners, sharing a love for the same woman, Kay Lake. This peculiar triangle will have to face not only the present, but also their own dormant demons – each with shadows of the past that project into their present.

“…The uniquely repugnant nature of this crime compels us to do our best to capture this monster as quickly as possible. A group of well-trained officers, including former fistfighters Fire and Ice, have been pulled away from their current duties to assist in the investigation, and when investigators like them take charge, I daresay we can expect positive results soon.”