Transfiguration Hospital | Chicago Reader

Transfiguration Hospital

This thought-provoking 1979 Polish film directed by Edward Zebrowski focuses on the conditions in a mental hospital in Nazi-occupied Poland. For much of the film the Germans stay away. Instead we see the medical staff, who are at cross-purposes; some seem more interested in themselves or their research than in the good of the patients. After a surgeon apparently causes a patient's death, a young doctor argues angrily, “This hospital is a prison in disguise,” and one senses the film is drawing a parallel between the brutality of some Poles and the Nazis. But of course when the Nazis finally come the crime they perpetrate is of a whole different order. What's interesting is the way the film delicately balances two common but opposing theses about Nazism—that it was just another example of human evil and that its horrors were unique—without choosing between them, except perhaps at the end. Unfortunately this theme is presented mainly through the script and acting; the images, effective as they are, do little more than show the action.

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