You're deep into the movie, soaking in a dramatic moment, when the guy sitting next to you whispers, "That's a classic response to the typical manifestation of those comorbidities." (Wha?) Okay, so maybe that's just how we imagined it might be watching a movie with a neurologist/film critic. But that's not the feeling you get from Eelco Wijdicks, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo neurologist and film enthusiast, who just this week released a book called, Neurocinema: When Film Meets Neurology. His book looks at how neurologic conditions are portrayed in the movies from the perspective of both neurologist and cinephile.
If you get Dr. Wijdicks talking cinema, you'll quickly learn he's a true fan. And he's more interested in what we can learn from the way movies portray neurological conditions than in taking them apart from a critical perspective. His book explores not only how certain conditions are portrayed but how they're shown to affect the lives of the characters and those around them. That's something he says movies often do quite well and that can offer insights to clinicians, as well was patients and their families. While he admits, "there's a lot of amusement and nonsense out there" and "some bad representation," he notes that, "The book is selective toward the films in which the filmmaker really thought about it carefully and made it into a larger topic." His "collection of film essays" looks at 115 films and documentaries, and nearly 50 neurologic conditions.
This idea of looking at how neurologic conditions are portrayed outside the exam room is nothing new to Dr. Wijdicks. He and his colleagues started a Mayo Neurology Book and Film Club as a forum to discuss "neurological disorders and their vicissitudes" as portrayed on the printed page and big screen. And for the past six or seven years, he's been writing film and documentary reviews for Neurology Today and, more recently, The Lancet. Not to mention conducting studies on how media portrayal influences perceptions of neurologic disorders.
At the heart of this latest effort is a desire to improve the lot of people with neurologic disorders by improving their understanding of their conditions and their implications, as well as improving understanding among those who care for them. "It's a neurological, psychological and sociological study that could be useful for residents and for fellows, or basically for everyone who's faced with a neurologic condition," he says. "At the end of the book I discuss how it can be used." And for those of us interested in adding to our movie queue in addition to our library, he offers movie ratings along with his personal Top 10 list along the way. Spoiler alert: "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" and "Amour" top his list.
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