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Wit (2001)

"Before viewing" talks introduce the film without spoilers. Watch it, then click on the "After viewing" talk for more. More»» by Randy Heffner

Why the film is worth your time

In the context of a life and death scenario, Wit intensely explores issues of life before death by juxtaposing the emotional sterility of the typical health care process, the purpose of academic rigor, simple human caring, the power of art, and the value and dignity of a human. Although it is an intense film with strong portrayals of the difficulties of dealing with advanced disease, its multi-faceted, multi-layered, subtle, and profound intermixing of themes and characters brings us deeply into the issues of Vivian Bearing’s life. Emma Thompson’s performance is stunning and clever. Pacing, dialog, use of color, and inter-stitching of time scales elicit deep connections with the film’s emotional foundation. Running time: 99 min.

Professor Vivian Bearing has cancer. Advanced, metastatic, ovarian cancer. She’s strong though, and she and fights it with the rigor she gives to her academic studies. Her expertise is in the poetry of John Donne — especially his holy sonnets, which wrestle with death and life and faith. As she endures experimental cancer treatment, she is confronted by the power, meaning, and intensity of her own work.

Scenes of medical anguish are intense. A medical procedure is performed with topless female nudity.

  • Director: Mike Nichols
  • Screenplay: Emma Thompson and Mike Nichols, based on stageplay by Margaret Edson
  • Leads: Emma Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Atkins, Audra McDonald, Jonathan M. Woodward
  • Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey
  • Music: Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki


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"After viewing" talks assume that you have seen the film. They will contain spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

How the film enriched and changed me

Having seen Wit, I want to take life more seriously. What I mean is that I want to take living life fully more seriously. I tend to think that living seriously means Doing Important Things. In Vivian’s case, this meant

Read the rest of this entry »

Screenshots and dialog copyright © 2001 by the filmmakers.


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NOTE: It is okay to have spoilers in comments on After viewing talks — no warnings necessary.

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