Hippocrate [Hippocrates] (2014)

Director: Thomas Lilti
Writer: Pierre Chosson, Baya Kasmi, Julien Lilti, Thomas Lilti
Cast: Vincent LacosteReda Kateb, Jacques Gamblin, Marianne Denicourt, Félix Moati, Carole Franck
Part of: Scope 50
Seen on: 20.02.2015

Benjamin (Vincent Lacoste) just started his doctor’s training at the hospital where his father (Jacques Gamblin) is a renowned surgeon. Benjamin goes in full of confidence and immediately butts heads with Abdel (Reda Kateb) who already has substantial experience as a doctor in Algeria, but for nostrification purposes has to go through training again and who doesn’t think much of Benjamin’s view of himself. And when a patient dies on Benjamin’s watch and due to Benjamin’s error, Benjamin starts to question himself as well.

Hippocrate has a pretty realistic view on the everyday experiences of doctors (as far as I can tell – I’m no doctor myself, but my sister and a close friend are), probably due to the fact that Lilti himself trained as doctor. But unfortunately he chose the wrong character as the protagonist. Generally more could have been made of the film, but what we got was also nice.


There’s a lot of criticism in the film, or at least critical potential, but at times it remains too superficial and simplistic. But mostly the critical aspects are undermined by the choice of protagonist: a privileged boy who gets everything handed to him and is almost more occupied with growing up himself than carrying much about his patients. So when the other doctors protect him and not Abdel, the injustice of that is far from as keenly felt as it had been, had Abdel been the protagonist.

And here we come to the heart of my problem with the film: I am tired of stories about privileged, rich, white kids who have to learn how to do the Right Thing(tm). I want more stories about immigrants struggling to do good in a racist and otherwise faulty system, about people who are left outside in the rain and who have to find some way to deal with that. In short, I wanted a film about Abdel, not Benjamin, who I didn’t care for one bit.

hippocrate1That have been the better story, as taking on the disadvantaged perspective would have made every hit that much harder and it would have served to emphasize the ludicrous cheapness with which the supposedly advanced nation of France organizes her health system, compared to the Algerian system that at least most Europeans will think of as less advanced (I don’t know the Algerian system. But I can imagine that either Abdel will feel frustrated that the French system isn’t better or has many faults of its own, or he will be frustrated that it is even worse than in Algeria).

But not only that, Reda Kateb is the better actor as well. So much so, that he left everybody in his dust and transformed Abdel into the protagonist and certainly the hero of the entire film as much as he possibly could. Ultimately, he is what makes the film worthwhile and his part is the part I will remember about it, even though the rest is nice as well.

hippocrate2Summarizing: It’s fine, it just isn’t particularly good.

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