CNA150: WIT by Mike Nichols - Film Analysis Assessment Answers

August 11, 2017
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Question: Film Analysis

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Assessment Task 1: Film analysis - "Wit"

Task description

For this assessment item you are required to watch the film 'WIT by Mike Nichols, and prepare an analysis based on the questions/instructions outlined later on this page. The film will be viewed during your workshop time in weeks 3 & 4, but a link is also available below for viewing in your own time and/or to refer to as you prepare your analysis. There will also be some time allocated in the week 4 workshop to discuss the film and begin to frame up your analysis.

Part 1: Select one of the following three questions to discuss

  1. Effective communication is essential for the establishment of a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship and the provision of safe, ethical and person-centred nursing care. Drawing upon the film and relevant literature and resources, discuss some examples of effective and ineffective communication (verbal and non-verbal) portrayed in the movie.

  1. How are you feeling today? This phrase is often used as part of a general greeting in lay discourse, but its perfunctory use in healthcare can often be disengaging and disempowering for our patients. Present a critique of how this phrase was used in the film, incorporating relevant literature and resources to justify your observations.

  1. The icy-pole (popsicle) scene represents a turning point in the therapeutic relationship and communication between Vivian and Susie. Discuss what changed and how this demonstrated more effective communication, drawing upon relevant literature and resources to support and give depth to your observations.

Part 2: Everyone is required to complete this section

Present a personal reflection on the learnings you have gained through watching and analysing this film, including the identification of any gaps in your knowledge or skills and a plan for the changes or improvements you intend to make to enhance your future practice.

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Solution: Film Analysis


Part 1

Efficient communication is pertinent for the development of therapeutic nurse-patient relations and the provision of ethical, safe and person-centered nursing care. A good relationship between the doctors and patients in the health sector where nurses and physicians are expected to execute their services in a professional manner. Professionalism, in this case can be defined as a collection of values, relationships, attitudes and behaviors that act as the basis of the health profession's contract with the community (Sethuraman, 2001). In this professionalism, communication is very critical thus it should be effective for the proper understanding between the patients and the doctors. In my paper, I am going to mirror my focus on the verbal and non-verbal communication cues as reflected in the movie the Wit by Mike Nichols.

Mike Nichols and Emma Thompson’s version of Margaret Edson's anti-intellectual and intellectual play Wit, emotively explores a tough but expressively homeless scholar's conflict with a life-threatening disease. At the same time, it callously deconstructs the current medical research establishment. This is an excellent movie which is directed by Nichols, riveted by Thompson and driven by Edson's sharp dialogue, reflecting the death of a scholar with the best performances of the actors. At 48 years old, Vivian is treated with metastatic ovarian cancer which had advanced. She is then subjected to experimental chemotherapy diagnosis for the span of eight months. He encourages her that she needed to have a will power and an inner courage for her to face her current state. Vivian tries to remain enduring as she suffers through tests and questions from technicians. This part depicts an ineffective communication because the doctors were expected to console the patient and give some hope of surviving instead of subjecting her to severe tests and questions. Following her critical state, she is assigned to the medical students and treated more like a specimen instead of a human being. Moreover, it is depicted that she is lonely and spends most of her period in the separated ward; she is agonizing from the suffering of spreading cancer and the dreadful effects of chemotherapy.

Edson emphasized the significance of efficient communication and good relationship between the patients and the clinician when she looked back on her job as a great help in the physical therapy division of a community hospital, and as a psychotherapy patient after separating her shoulder (Gottlieb, 2015). In one of the interviews, she recorded that what makes her believe that she can try is the established relationship between her and the patients and she believes that it is the only thing that she can offer. Edson believes that Professor Bearing will successfully practice such a relationship ethic with Nurse Monahan. Although she may not have the academic qualifications of the research doctors, she is the foundation of the research hospital because of her combined sensitivity and skill.

Although, most of the people are familiar with The Golden Rule that records that treat other people the way you want to be treated, Edson, in an interview, brought forth The Platinum Rule that posits that treat others the way they desire to be treated and its significance in patient-clinician relationships. Nurse Monahan appears to exemplify best The Platinum Rule in the movie adaptation of Wit. Rather than patronizing or dehumanizing Professor Bearing, Nurse Monahan appears to sympathize with her patient. She seems to predict her patient’s demands, and the way professor bearing herself would desire those needs to be fulfilled. This part reflects the significance of effective communication and good relationship between the clinician and the patients.

The film the Wit seems to address the theme of human interaction and how a proper choice of words can influence the interactions between the patients and the clinicians. This effective communication and interaction are portrayed in the movie from the manner in which Nurse Monahan and Dr. Kelekian address each other and how their communication to each other could impact patient-primary caregiver relationship. From one of the preliminary scenes in the movie, Dr. Kelekian is seen addressing Professor Bearing as Dr. Bearing instead of using her first name. This reflection of professional respect is a verbal acknowledgment of the rigor of their respective professions, their shared commitment to their erudition and establishes a friendly closeness that drives their association throughout the play. Nurse Monahan, in contrast, starts her connection with Professor Bearing by using the courteous address of Ms. Bearing. It is reflected from the film that the respectful addresses continued until Professor Bearing reached the end of her life that they shifted their addresses to one another to a more intimate and significant Vivian.

Fascinatingly, Edson also in an interview shared the experience about her first job where she records that it was a physical therapy aide. When looking at this early work, Edson observed the world of physiotherapy appeared to her as an incremental progress where it took gradual steps and continuous improvements toward a distant goal (Gottlieb, 2015). In the entire play Professor Bearing’s conversion into a person who has lived and willing to accept her vulnerability is attained through the same series of small steps through a form that Edson described as spiritual physical therapy. And this is depicted towards the end of the play where Professor Bearing has been pushed to the edge of what she feels was safe doing and then ought to do one more thing. And that is precisely where we grow, at the edge there, in the discomfort zone. If there is much destabilization, then we withdraw. Nurse Monahan with her gentle patience, steadfastly stands by her side, she becomes the only clinician who encourages Professor Bearing enough to aid her to grow.

Another non-verbal communication is depicted in one of the scenes where Vivian is discovered with stage IV ovarian cancer. Harvey Kelekian, an oncologist by profession, prescribes different chemotherapy diagnosis in an attempt to treat her disease, and as she agonizes through various side-effects such as chills, abdominal pain, fever and vomiting, she tries to put all in perspective. The movie occasionally reflects back to her previous periods in her life, including her childhood, her career before her diagnosis and her graduate school studies. As the film progresses, she frequently breaks the fourth wall by staring into the camera and expressing her feelings; this part clearly depicts the non-verbal cues that Vivian employed in expressing the agony and suffering she was going through, and this can be detected by the audience.

Finally, Vivian comes to understand that chemotherapy diagnoses have failed. She resolves to go back to Posner to seek for more comfort, but he is unable to offer. Late one night, she converses with her nurse Susie about her fears about the approaching death. They share a Popsicle in a valuable moment of deep closeness this scene depicts the act of verbal communication and a mutual relationship that exists between Vivian and her nurse Susie. Vivian was only open to Susie because she had a good relationship with her, were it not for the established relations between the two Vivian could have had nobody to share her fears and worries with; this is a clear manifestation that both verbal and non-verbal communications influence the patient -clinician relationship. At the later stage, as Vivian lies in a near unconsciousness, Susie caringly rubs ointment on her hands. This non-verbal communication can be summed as an act of kindness characterized by caring.

Part 2 reflection  

First of all before watching this film, be advised, this is a serious film to watch; if one decides to watch this movie, he or she would be rewarded with the knowledge that is unforgettable and invaluable and in a manner that transcends just simple cinematic satisfaction. There is no mystery in watching the Wit, neither secrets nor allegories. Indeed, the theme is made succinctly clear in the first words you hear, uttered by Dr. Kelekian to Vivian Bearing that you have cancer and that how the movie begins as it is directed by Mike Nichols. I have realized that this is a film that will claim one's emotions and take an individual to a place of eternal night, a part where even the most fearless of body and spirit fear to walk. From the movie, I have learned that patient-clinician relationship in the health care sector is essential. Both our verbal and non-verbal communications affect significantly those people surrounding us just as the same manner Vivian was hit by the severe questions and tests that she received from the clinicians who were attending her. In fact, they did not value her as somebody whom they should save her life; they had seen death in her before the actual death. I also learned that Vivian was subjected to indignities by the caregivers and the doctors who seem not to care about humanity. While I was watching the film, I realized that I am easily moved by the emotions and at times lose concentration, next time I will work on this area of weakness to improve my concentration and analysis.

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