3 January 2004 | sharptongue
The story is told in documentary style, and is based on a newspaper serial which may have been based on a true story.
The copy I saw (on video) did not have subtitles for the dialogue. However, there were captions for the names and positions of the major characters (but not the actor names) as they appear. The plot was explained to me by the resident translator, but it was difficult to keep up with everything that was happening. Talk about dialogue-rich ! There is at least one person speaking in nearly every frame, and often at speed. There are about 15 major characters, each of whom are involved in intricate plotting and counter-plotting.
In short, to enjoy and fully appreciate, I would recommend you hold out for a subtitled copy, unless you understand Japanese at a high level of fluency.
However, being film, the quality is evident in the performances and direction, even if I only got ten percent of the dialogue ! It is well written and has a quality cast ( though there is a lot of overacting). The director ultimately gets his message across , and is far from subtle about it. That is, that when medical academics focus more on ambition and promotion, it's the welfare of the patients which suffers.
A warning : as well as tons of dialogue, there are a number of scenes of actual surgery. Up close and very graphic ! Ugh.
Most perturbing, though, is that most of the characters smoke most of the time. I find this incredible. Even by the mid 60s, the evidence about smoking causing cancer was well-known, even in Japan, and especially amongst surgeons ! It must have stood out even at the time, but in the 21th Century, a really stunning situation.
Overall, the tone of the story is finely balanced between polemic, farce and wit. A highly entertaining and thought-provoking mixture. Highly recommended.