As usual I stumbled on this TV mini-series by pure chance (my wife read about it in a magazine and I looked it up on the internet). The prime interest of this British TV series from Sky Arts 1 HD is that the main protagonist is played, document.write(“”); in his young age, by Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter‘s fame) and by John Hamm (from Mad Men), as he is older.
“After graduating from medical school in 1917, Bulgakov was sent to run a hospital in the remote Smolensk province, where his patients lived a brutal, essentially medieval existence. He turned these experience into a series of short stories, collected in A Young Doctor’s Notebook, a fictional account of a nameless doctor whose experience largely overlaps with its author’s. His young doctor discovers that childbirth and tracheotomies go much faster, and get a lot messier, than the medical textbooks had led him to believe.“ [Text from one of the dvd covers (right). See the other cover here]
First, have a look on the official trailer:
Originally titled A Country Doctor’s Notebook (??????? ????? ?????), this collection of short stories by acclaimed Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov was already well known and admired by american actor John Hamm who was attached to its adaptation project from the very beginning as an executive producer. When they sought the collaboration of Daniel Radcliffe to play the frail, short and clumsy young doctor, they discovered that he was also a great fan of Bulgakov. According to Alan Connor, one of the show’s writers, Radcliffe visited Bulgakov’s hometown for his 21st birthday and he described the book as “a meditation on memory.”
The story is narrated from the point of view of the older doctor. In 1934, as he is being investigated for his morphine addiction, the doctor go through the notebook he wrote when he was sent to take charge of a country hospital right after having graduated from university in 1917. He remembers all the hardship he went through and even interacts with his younger self, criticizing or mocking his conduct and self-doubt. He was missing his comfortable life in the culturally-rich Moscow while discovering how rude and primitive was the life of his patients and how tragically unprepared he found himself to deal with this situation.
This series, described as a comedy drama, is really brilliant. Only the British could treat such a dark subject (bleak russian countryside, gruesome early 20th-century medicine, psychological despair and morphine addiction) with great humour. It has almost the excesses of the slapstick comedy (with plenty of blood and horrible amputation) but leaves you somewhat uncomfortable. It’s also beautifully played by the two main actors. My only complain is that it is so damn short: only four 30-minute episodes (although the dvd was somewhere qualified as “season 1” so there might be hope for more–but that could simply be a mistake). It started airing in UK on Sky Arts 1 HD from december 6, 2012 and is already available on Dvd in the United Kingdom. Let’s hope it will come quickly to our shores.
For more information you can visit those sites:
Finally, check this interview where Hamm and Radcliffe talk about the TV series: