THE ART OF SURGERY: The Swedish surgeon Erik Erichsen grew tired of the social isolation and bureaucracy-heavy workdays in Scandinavia. Now, he is perfecting his own creative form of surgery in an Ethiopian town.
One might think only a humanitarian impulse would make a Swedish surgeon leave his life behind and move to Aira, Ethiopia. But the reason why Dr. Erik Erichsen and his wife Sennait made this move was not only to save others, but for the doctor to save himself from the social isolation and the bureaucracy that entangled his work in a Swedish hospital. The Rebel Surgeon tells the story of his newfound life, in which he has replaced comforts and new technologies with new meanings –in his personal life as well as in his profession.
Dr. Erichsen’s story was also briefly featured in Erik Gandini’s previous film, The Swedish Theory of Love (2015). That film turned the spotlight on Swedish society, and the endemic isolation and social disconnect caused by an idealisation of individualism, Ranking very high on the scale of individual happiness, Sweden is a wealthy country where everything is safe and regulated – and in which people are terribly lonely. The almost dystopian cinematic language of Theory of Love, combined with the history of how such a society came to be, call for questioning what happiness actually means. What will the future look like in a place like this? Such questions certainly resonate within most of the Western world.
With little resources but with strong social bonds, Ethiopia was featured in the film as the opposite of everything Sweden has to offer. Dr. Erichsen made an appearance as the person who just couldn’t stand the dysfunctionality of the Swedish society and moved to a place where no matter how difficult things get, one is always surrounded by people. After being confronted with everything that is recognisably wrong in Sweden and in the Western world, the story of a man who went back to basics tapped into a deep longing experienced by many westerners. The viewer was left wanting to know more.
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