Imagine a time and place where someone actually had to pretend to be Jewish just to become a doctor. That is the plot of the upcoming movie The Physician.
Based on the 1986 novel by Noah Gordon, the film follows the story of Rob Cole, a Christian who lived in the 11th Century. He travels across the world from England to Persia to study under the famed Ibn Sina, played by Ben Kingsley. But at the time Christians were discriminated against more than Jews so the young Cole pretends to be Jewish, even going so far as to circumcise himself.
Cole began his studies in London, but, after seeing a dazzling surgery performed by a Jewish physician trained by the legendary Persian physician Avicenna, he chooses to study at Avicenna’s school.
Imagine that: A Medieval Christian posing as a Jew in a Muslim country.
Variety said, “For those who miss the substance and scope of films like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Man Who Would Be King, ” Philipp Stoelzl’s “The Physician” restores one’s faith in the medium — if not necessarily one’s faith in faith.”
On Kingsley’s performance, “From a casting perspective, landing Kingsley makes all the difference to the film. The actor’s stature confers immediate respect upon the Persian philosopher, whom he also imbues with uncharacteristic humility.”
The movie was released in select theters across America on Friday to make it eligible for next year’s Oscars. A wide release date has not yet been set. It has already sold 3.5 million tickets in Europe.
The novel The Physician is the first in the Cole Family trilogy and is followed by Shaman and Matters of Choice. The Physician was not a success in the U.S. but was a huge bestseller in Europe.