Set in Istanbul's venerable Cerrahpaşa Hospital, PHASES OF MATTER follows living and inanimate residents of this teaching hospital, moving from the operating room to the morgue, between life and other states, the real and the virtual.
The Hippocratic Oath requires doctors “to impart instruction to [their] own sons, the sons of [their] teacher, and to indentured pupils who have taken the physician’s oath, but to nobody else”.
My father has been a doctor at Cerrahpaşa Hospital, and I lived in and around the hospital throughout my childhood and early adult life. Through this, I was exposed to the everyday life of the hospital. I was always intrigued by the psyche of doctors, dealing calmly with people in need, and dealing with sickness and death in a casual manner. Over the years I realized that hospitals and this profession was more or less a secret and no one outside of this world really knew the feeling and mindset of working and living in a hospital. Hospitals are parallel worlds, not fully open to outsiders.
Phases of Matter explores the unseen aspects of medicine: the life behind the curtain for doctors and hospital workers, the environment they work in and the mannerisms they adopt, the power of physical institutions, as well as the passage of the human body. The film is set in Cerrahpaşa Hospital, a unique, state-run teaching hospital in Istanbul, nearing the end of its working life. Current plans for demolition are under discussion.
Phases of Matter begins from a recognizable starting point, an observational documentary set in a hospital. As the film progresses, it straddles the real and virtual, past and future, animate and inanimate forms. Erwin Strauss, a doctor and medical philosopher, writes: “The human gait is a continuously arrested falling”. Similarly, Phases of Matter moves forward unexpected and discontinuously - emerging at poetic conclusions from scientific observations.
Deniz Tortum works in film and new media. His work has screened internationally, including at the Venice Film Festival, SxSW, Sheffield Doc/Fest, True/False and Dokufest. His last film Phases of Matter premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam this year. He was recently featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film.