This month sees the release of The Physician, based on the novel by Noah Gordon, and starring Tom Payne, Stellan Skarsgård and Sir Ben Kingsley. Set in the Dark Ages, the film is a dramatic take on that most unfashionable of subjects: Science. Rob Cole (Payne) is a young English whippersnapper, scooped under the wing of a roaming performer and self-proclaimed healer (Skarsgård) after his mother’s untimely death. Spurred on by an indomitable spirit and a thirst for knowledge on the subject of medicine, he launches himself into a perilous expedition to the East to find Ibn Sina (Kingsley), heralded as the finest physician in the world.
From these humble beginnings, the film gathers pace and depth, transporting us to a mystical land and a place of deeper values and questions. The scenery and atmosphere of the Middle Eastern cities Rob finds himself in are alone inspiring, and his search for truth finds greater meaning as he encounters battles with morality and religious fanatics determined to halt scientific progress. In this way the film successfully echoes thoroughly modern issues, while also reminding us of the grim realities of early medicine and surgery (look away if you don’t like scalpels).
At times, the almost magical powers of the main character felt like a distraction, as his psychological battle would have been more than enough to carry the story. Kingsley excels as always as the master physician, lending the film a graceful and slightly comic air that only he can. Overall, this film is a well-crafted and enthralling blend of history, science and morality that will surely appeal to adults young and old; a classic tale of the underdog, a fight against adversity in the pursuit of civilisation.
The Physician is released by Arrow Films on DVD on Monday 5th October.