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The doctor and the magician, the historical conflict between science and faith

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Do you have faith? Do you have a pure soul?

original title: The doctor and the magician
film director: Mario Monicelli
movie script: Luigi Emanuel, Mario Monicelli, Age & Scarpelli, Ennio De Concini
Principle castMarcello Mastroianni, Vittorio De Sica, Marisa Merlini, Virgilio Rento, Lorella Di Luca, Alberto Sordi, Ilaria Uccini
nation: Italia

Viruses, vaccines and blasphemy: the newspapers are not talking about anything else now. It’s a hot topic of discussion and not a few controversies. Many European countries are finding within their societies increasingly separate factions, between those who rely on medical care and those who do not believe in its efficacy. Already in 1957, in his own way, Mario Monicelli took up the topic in the film The doctor and the witche.

the plot

In the small town of Pianetta, a young doctor arrives, Francesco (Mastroianni), who, despite his good intentions, immediately finds himself forced to fight an enemy of Don Antonio (De Sica). In fact, he is a well-known “healer” (a person who is able to heal thanks to personal powers), who is visited by many people in the county to seek advice, solutions and treatments for physical and moral issues. The intelligent man, in fact, uses natural remedies and personal medical knowledge, speculates on them, and describes himself as “the solution to all evil,” sometimes with absolute good faith. The beautiful thing is that Don Antonio is the first to not believe in certain things, acknowledging this to his assistant:

“We are in 1957 and we still believe in the eye.”

Thought to be a fashion, Francesco has to fight the ignorance of the people, who also collectively reject the typhoid vaccine.

He will not go until the mayor, as prompted by his sister Mafalda (Merlini), first follower of Don Antonio, who uses the practices of a healer to get news of his beloved Corrado (Sordi), who has disappeared from the call of war. In fact, Antonio secretly loves Mafalda, and would like to make Corrado “die”, hoping that she will have a place in a woman’s heart; But at the same time he certainly does not want to give up 300 lira a week …

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The situation deteriorates when a villager, in agreement with Antonio, fails to heal at the hands of the doctor, but, on the contrary, at the hands of the sorcerer. People increasingly refuse to take advantage of Francesco, who is ready to leave; But life is a bet and Antonio will be in a seismic state when the only person who can help him… is Francesco!

cinematic context

We are approaching the end of the fifties. Italy has already taken home two Oscars for Best Foreign Film thanks to two films by Vittorio De Sica, and the tide of neorealism is in full swing. This, born in the mid-1940s, shows us Italy during and immediately after the war, where hunger, despair and misery are now the true daily life of Bill Pais. However, the current is not only talking to us about this, but is also a little more attentive to facts that the so-called “white phones” did not address, such as Peasant facts. Some very raw De Santis in bitter rice. Others drawn from literary style works earth tremble by Visconti. Instead, another wing follows in the wake of a wing A star fell in the countryside, from the Di Filippo brothers, as two su hopefull From Castellani, where rosy realism was born, which removes that raw aura, even if at times bitter and dramatic. Lighter comedies are also born: one thinks of Comincini Bread, love and imagination.

However, there is a need stronger than ever: not only to speak out a truth every day, but also to give it a touch of criticism, because not always everything is well.

The doctor and the magician It is a principle of what is actually considered Italian Comedy, that ironic neo-realism, where the truth is not hidden, but gives an exposed point to social criticism, which will culminate with usual unknown.

social and political criticism

Monicelli’s critique is easy to understand. The villagers believe in absolute good faith in Don Antonio due to the ignorance and illiteracy that is rampant in those places. People, trapped in the ordinary mechanism of the country, do not get out of their shells and remain rooted in the past, without understanding its anachronisms. Testimony of the beginning, when Francesco arrived and a villager asked him if he was being held. We’re in the year 57, and the system has been down for more than 13 years. The war is over and everyone knows it, but the last historical “modernization” of the country is the modernization of the 1930s!

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Having completed that moment without a scientific picture of healing, they believe that all this talk about vaccines, injections, drugs and antibiotics is essentially a fad, which, like many others, will soon pass and return to the old methods, which, while it seems to the outside eyes only superstition , is the only effective for them.

Here’s the real magic of Don Antonio.

He knows that horse meat is a cure for anemia, but he also knows that for the peasants this recipe is a magic potion, which will make their daughter prosper again. Monicelli’s denunciation lies precisely in the desire to take advantage of this knowledge and its shortcomings: in fact, Don Antonio claims that the girl will be saved with this diet and a “useful shoulder” around her neck. So there is always a personal advantage in his good deed.

After all, however, he is a villain rather than a villain. He does not want to hurt, but only to make money. But we ask this question: Do you realize that this attitude of yours generates in the inhabitants of the country a complete distrust of science, and therefore, in some way, prevents them from taking care of themselves in the right way? Rather than being a link of peasant knowledge, which is always effective, to real science, he prefers to block progress.

However, criticism is also directed at the central authorities.

They forget the little facts that struggle to keep up with the times. Very backward places where it is almost natural to justify belief in characters like Don Antonio, because modern things do not arrive, always because these places (governments and workers) are not needed. The sleep of these facts continues, until something or someone (like Francesco) arrives from the outside that breaks the bubble in which they live.

Also strong criticism of the topic lost in the war, where some people, like Mafalda, found themselves having to wait for answers that were not to come.

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how much is current The doctor and the magician

Don Antonio remembers, unfortunately, a long line of characters, known as “gurus” (“I know”, “I’ve read”, “trust me”) who take advantage of some people’s inability to understand the Internet and the network itself, convincing them that What medicine and science basically say is only because it serves (in the servile sense) the economy, finance, and powerful forces.

Here, quoting from the Supreme Poet, our free will intervenes, i.e. the choice between man and science, because what people get from their words is that everything that stems from knowledge is wrong; But it is the result of years of “don’t eat with culture” (science is culture, because it is knowledge). The real problem is that they, like Don Antonio, secretly accept and use medicine in their daily lives, when they need it. And so, like the wizard in the movie, where’s the line between being a scoundrel and a bad teacher? This is the true meaning of the movie for me.

3 reasons to watch the movie:

  • Vittorio De Sica, in a fictional part that fits him perfectly and makes him outshine everyone else
  • The text that leaves nothing to chance
  • Marisa Merlini, in a character that “matures” over the course of the film, is difficult to manage

When do you see the movie?

Sunday afternoon, right after lunch

Francesco Vario

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