The Brain on the big screen: films of patients in the neurology ward of a Romanian hospital circa 1899
February 8, 2005 10:26 AM   Subscribe

The Brain on the Big Screen: films of patients in a neurology ward of a Romanian hospital circa 1899. Between 1899 and 1902, Gheoghe Marinescu perfected the use of cinematography as a research method in neurosciences and published five articles based on cinematographic documents. He focused his studies particularly on organic gait disorders, locomotor ataxia, and hysteria. He adapted Charcot's method of lining up several patients with the same disorder and showing them together to permit appreciation of archetypes and formes frustes. He decomposed the moving pictures into sequential tracings for publication. He documented treatment results with cases filmed before and after therapy. Films 1-4 and films 5-8
posted by derangedlarid (9 comments total)
That's a fascinating piece of medical history, and it's a pity there isn't more reporting of his figures/results in the abstract. It would be interesting to see what conclusions he drew from the data, and also what arguments he made for using what was at the time a new 'medical imaging' technology. I have to say that I found the films alternately intriguing, voyeuristic and creepy. Here's a brief bio of Marinescu.
posted by carter at 12:07 PM on February 8, 2005

I'd like to spend a little more time at that site to find cine-documents of other neuro-disorders. The clips are wonderfully green, drab, and old...I shall cherish them!
posted by gorgor_balabala at 5:16 PM on February 8, 2005

I wish there was more context for each video. It’s quite surreal in it’s current form. Here is another bio.
posted by arse_hat at 5:34 PM on February 8, 2005

orz -- I can't believe this thing has been up here as long as it has with Boing Boing all over it and yet nobody has posted a music video mashup of all this footage yet (5:25pm PST -8 GMT).

What, do you all have careers or something? Sheeze!

Perhaps I missed it, but is there anything describing in greater detail what these films are trying to catalog? They are interesting in their own right but really want for a description of the illness they are portraying.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 5:34 PM on February 8, 2005

So many of those people look starved -- concentration camp thin. I wonder if that much wasting is entirely attributable to illness.

nobody has posted a music video mashup of all this footage yet

That makes me wince. I wish there had been more context to this link, so it might be possible to talk about these images in a way that did them honor. What makes these films so remarkable? Their age? The tiny glimpse into the life of an institutionalized person in turn-of-the-century Romania? I hope someone can post something more educative, so it's a bit less like getting freak-show kicks.
posted by melissa may at 5:59 PM on February 8, 2005





The intern did it.
posted by mischief at 7:19 PM on February 8, 2005

I agree that the issue of context is troubling with these images, but I don't believe that the scientific context is necessarily the one they actually call for. I think the thing that makes Marinescu's images so compelling is the way they make you wonder about what has been lost to history, and what kind of context would have to exist for whatever it was that was lost to resurface.
posted by derangedlarid at 7:47 PM on February 8, 2005

One more thing, if we had a scientific explanation and context for these images they would merely disappear again. Read the article in the link and you will see that no one saw them as remarkable, aside from their obvious historicity. In the eyes of science they are merely exemplars of what is known about movement disorders.

These images disappeared in the first place precisely because they were explained.

Marinescu created them to discover something, but once that discovery and classification of movement disorders was complete, the images themselves became useless, just like the individuals in the films who were only useful insofar as they exemplified a particular disorder. They too disappeared.
posted by derangedlarid at 8:04 PM on February 8, 2005

Wow. Amazing link derangedlarid, both fascinating and compelling. Thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 9:40 PM on February 8, 2005

« Older Save the BetaMax!!!   |   Turns out it was all just a dream of Frankie's Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments