Writer and Director: Martin Kraut
Quite why The Dose, an Argentinian hospital drama, is playing at this year’s BFI Flare is anyone’s guess. This initially intriguing film about mysterious deaths in an ICU ward is ultimately overlong and a little dull.
It begins well, however, with ICU nurse Marcos bringing back a patient from the dead after the doctors have given up trying to resuscitate her. Marcos insists on one more shock from the defibrillator, and then, miraculously, the heart monitor stops flat-lining and starts pulsing instead. But his hero status is quickly compromised when, later, we see him creeping around the ward with a syringe in his hand.
But a new nurse seems to be up to the same tricks. Eager to make an impression, Gabriel soon makes friends with everyone and comes in early for his shifts and stays at work beyond them. He offers Marcos lifts in his car, and buys him an electric tin opener for the canned peas that he always eats cold. But like his new friend, Gabriel is soon acting suspiciously around patients’ beds, armed with a syringe.
In the BFI’s description of the film, it suggests that The Dose contains homoerotic undertones, but these are so delicate that they may as well be non-existent. Director Martin Kraut gives us so little of his two main characters that it’s hard to chart their desires. Marcos has done the same job for 20 years but has always been overlooked for the role of supervisor. One of the early scenes shows him getting home after a long shift to find empty shelves in his wardrobe and a note on the table. Presumably someone has left him, but this is never elaborated on and not something he ever mentions to his colleague Noella.
With so little to go on, it’s hard to root for Marcos even when he doggedly begins to investigate Gabriel’s past. And when the film swings into a Kafkaesque examination of hospital bureaucracy, the film loses its urgency completely and then meanders oddly to its conclusion, which only slightly justifies its inclusion in a LGBTQ+ festival.
Carlos Portaluppi does well with the downtrodden, but kind Marcos, never once taking the hurt out of his eyes while Ignacio Rogers plays Gabriel as a student intern, veering from total commitment to the job to taking breaks every minute he can. It’s hard to see his attraction; unless it is youth that blinds his colleagues and superiors to his faults.
Kraut’s film is shot in mainly blue and green tones, indicative of long nights spent on the ward and of bodies in the hospital morgue, but this atmosphere doesn’t extend to the story of who is the Angel of Death and who is the Angel of Mercy. The Dose is a disappointment in an otherwise strong Flare festival.
BFI Flare runs here from 17 March to 28 March 2021