Wit Movie

After watching Wit (available on Amazon or on DVD), answer the following questions:

Dramatic Conventions:

Since Wit is an adaptation of the play of the same name by Margaret Edson, many of the dramatic conventions from the stage have remained: soliloquy, metafiction, minimal sets, and small cast of characters.

Metafiction is a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work’s status as an artifact. One way to accomplish this is for a character to acknowledge s/he is a character. On multiple occasions Vivian pointedly acknowledges that she is within a play. She tells the audience her motivation, reasoning, and future events. She also has minor control over the order in which they proceed.

We see an example of foreshadowing when Vivian says, “I’m waiting for the moment when someone asks me this question and I’ll be dead.” Foreshadowing is a hint of events to come, usually a small action that later is replicated on a grander scale. (To be clear, the diagnosis at the beginning of the film was also a clear example of foreshadowing for anyone in the medical profession.) Anton Chekhov argued that everything in a play should be necessary, so therefore everything becomes foreshadowing. “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” Most films do not follow this literally, but if something is brought into the camera’s focus (and it’s not product placement) then it will be significant to the plot later.

  1. Look up the terms soliloquy, repartee, and aside. Which term would apply to Vivian’s lines at the opening of the play?
  2. Explain why you chose the term you did for #1.
  3. Identify another example of foreshadowing in the play besides the one mentioned above.

The Lesson in Empathy

A repeating message within the play and film is the confusion, humiliation, and plain awkwardness of the modern medical system. The patient receives animosity for medical professional’s inconveniences for which she has no control. She is asked questions that seem absurd. She is treated as an object with little or no freedom over the course of her treatment, etc.

  1. Does this seem exaggerated to you as a working professional in the field? Or is this a reality that many have experienced? Explain.

Main characters

When discussing characters, one difference between film and television is that the characters in film tend to be more complex. The main reason for this is a film is usually a complete work where individual episodes are only a small portion of the larger work which is usually never completed. We, the audience, expect the main characters to develop in a film. In a television show, we usually want them to stay close to the same or at least change slowly.

Eileen Atkins as Evelyn Ashford, Ph.D. — Vivian’s former mentor

  1. Is Dr. Ashford a flat character or a round character? Explain your answer.

6.Look up the terms antagonist and foil. Is Dr. Ashford an antagonist or a foil to Vivian? (She’s one or the other.) Explain how you arrived at your answer.

  1. Think back to our discussion of archetypes. What archetype is Professor Ashford? Explain.
  2. In the scene with Dr. Ashford, what archetype is Vivian? Explain.

Harold Pinter as Mr. Bearing — Vivian’s father

  1. What is the function of the flashback to the scene with Vivian and her father? What do we learn?
  2. How would you describe their relationship?
  3. What archetype is Mr. Bearing? What actions of his support this?

Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Harvey Kelekian — the head physician

The opening scene is beautifully set with alternate shots focused on the faces of Vivian and then Dr. Kelekian as Dr. Kelekian explains the diagnosis and treatment. Notice that Vivian is looking up slightly with a dark background while Dr. Kelekian is looking down with a bright background.

  1. How does this establish the relationship between Vivian and Dr. Kelekian?
  2. What is Dr. Kelekian’s role in the play? Is he an antagonist? A foil? Explain.
  3. Is Dr. Kelekian a flat character or a round character?
  4. What archetype is Dr. Kelekian? What actions of his support this?

Audra McDonald as Susie Monahan, R.N. — the nurse

  1. What archetype is Susie Monahan? What actions of hers support this?
  2. What is her role in the play? Is she an antagonist or a foil to Vivian? Explain your answer.

Jonathan M. Woodward as Dr. Jason Posner — the fellow

  1. Is Dr. Posner a round character or a flat character? Explain your answer.
  2. What does the dialogue and characterization of Dr. Posner reveals about his attitude towards Vivian?
  3. Does Dr. Posner change over the course of the play, or is he a static character? (That is, is he unchanging?) If he changes, explain how. Does he change, or do we just learn more about him?
  4. What is Dr. Posner’s view of Dr. Kelekian?
  5. If we focused on Jason, what problem does he have to solve or overcome?
  6. What does he have to learn?
  7. What archetype is Dr. Jason Posner? What actions support this?

Emma Thompson as Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. — the one with cancer

  1. Look up the terms hero and antihero. Is Vivian a heroine or antiheroine? Does she have any heroic traits in the scenes that represent her days before cancer?
  2. Does Vivian have heroic traits as a woman fighting cancer? What are they?
  3. Are we meant to admire Vivian? Explain your answer.
  4. After the classroom scene, Vivian tries to express her emotions: “I feel so much–what is the word? I look back, I see these scenes, and I . . . .” How might Vivian complete the sentence, if she were being perfectly honest with herself?
  5. What type of archetype is Vivian by the end of the play? What actions or statements of hers support this?
  6. What do you think the playwright wants to highlight for the audience about the way we should or do live our lives?

Sample Solution