The Fervent Arts Company, Ictus (2015)

As you may be aware, cinema therapy is a thing. For those with mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, a well-chosen movie is, some will argue, the perfect prescription.

But if you suffer from epilepsy, watching Ictus could be the worst ten minutes you ever spend. No spoilers here, but it’s clear from the get go that Doctor Khan has forgotten his Hippocratic oath.

Worse still, we are all cast as patient to this renegade, whose consulting room is lit by spooky candle, papered with vintage text books on the brain, and emblazoned with the flag of a rogue (?) nation.

The gist of it is this: we have come round from a seizure to find ourselves in the unlucky presence of a man whose sinister mask is enough to foreshadow the eventual end of our treatment.

Director Asheq Akhtar has pulled off two technical feats to bring us Dr Khan’s verbose diagnosis: candles provide the only lighting and it is filmed in just one take. Akhtar also plays the doctor.

Unwillingly, we play the patient. But do patients ever have a choice? And in allegorical terms, did the genocide victims in the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence volunteer for their fates? No.

Khan’s namesake is Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan, also known as the Butcher of Bengal. So the script, which aligns this historic figure with the doctor from hell, is a further achievement.

The partition of India and Pakistan and subsequent division of Pakistan represent a too complicated narrative. But the mystical doctor in this piece demonstrates that simplicity can be brutal.

There is much in this complex film which eludes me: much conflict, much politics and many hatreds. But the flickering obscurity of this evil interlude is surely a theme unto itself.

In a coda, we view a massacre at Dhaka Uni through the grainy footage of a Western news outlet. the tiny figures a stark contrast to the larger than life Khan. He is closer to home, wherever that is for you.

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