Synopsis by Mark Deming
This historical drama is based on the true story of controversial medical pioneer Franz Anton Mesmer. In 18th century Vienna, Mesmer (Alan Rickman) believes that many of the favored medical treatments of the day -- most notoriously the inducement of bleeding to remove harmful "humors" from the body -- are both dangerous and ineffective to the patients they are intended to treat. Mesmer believes that gentler methods could have a more positive impact on his patients. Believing in what he calls "animal magnetism," Mesmer uses magnetic currents and the power of suggestion to treat patients; the medical establishment of the time regards him as a lunatic, so he performs most of his treatments on the poor, who cannot afford to pay a doctor, forcing Mesmer's well-to-do wife (Gillian Barge) to support the family. Mesmer receives a great deal of publicity when well-known pianist Maria Theresa Paradies (Amanda Ooms) suffers a severe seizure during a recital; while several physicians in attendance want to submit Paradies to an immediate bleeding, Mesmer applies his magnetism techniques, which prove to be effective in calming the young woman. Paradies was tremendously grateful to Mesmer and began seeing him regularly as a patient; she soon developed an emotional attachment to the doctor that became something of a public scandal. In time, the public's anger over Mesmer's unorthodox techniques and his perceived affair with Paradies forced him to leave Vienna for Paris, where he became the toast of the city's wealthy and privileged -- until the French medical community demanded that Mesmer prove the effectiveness of his techniques. Noted playwright Dennis Potter wrote the screenplay.
doctor/nurse, non-traditional, techniques, magnet, patient [medical], extramarital-affair, harmony [peace], hypnosis