Albert Schweitzer (2009)




Director:     Gavin Millar. 

Starring:      Jeroen Krabbé (Albert Schweitzer), Barbara Hershey (Helene Schweitzer), Judith Godrèche (Thérèse Bourdin), Samuel West (Phil Figgis), Jeanette Hain (Rhena Schweitzer), Patrice Naiambana (Louis Ngouta), Jonathan Firth (Dr. David Fuller), Armin Rohde (Albert Einstein), Eleonore Weisgerber (Senior Nurse Anna), Hans Werner Meyer (Dr. Erik Hals), Jennifer Ulrich (Nurse Susi Sandler).

yes, American anti-communists even tried to destroy Albert Schweitzer and Albert Einstein



Spoiler Warning:

The atom bomb that was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima ended the Second World War.  But a new war began  --  the Cold War  -- and an arms race between the superpowers.  In the heart of Africa on the river Ogowe, a renowned and much-love humanitarian, caring for lepers in his jungle hospital, seemed remote for the world's concerns.  But some regarded him as a threat to world peace.

Lambarene, Gabon, Africa, 1949.  Schweitzer feeds the pelicans in the morning.  Then he goes on his rounds to tend to the sick.  Dr. Fuller says that this one fellow hasn't been  improving much.  He's been on melarsoprol for nearly three weeks.  The reason for this is that the wife has not been giving her husband the melarsoprol. Her excuse is that these other pills are bigger, and hence work better.  Schweitzer says they will have to tighten things up around her.  Anna, the nurse, tells Schweitzer that they are very short of nurses.  Over the radio, they play an organ tune by Schweitzer.  Anna has the famous doctor comes over to hear what's playing on the radio. 

Schweitzer is down at the leper village this morning.  Anna comes down to tell the great man that the boat has been waiting nearly an hour.  Joseph has already taken his bags to the jetty.  Schweitzer tells Minkoe that this time he is going to America o raise some money to finish building the leper village. 

New York City, 1949.  Schweitzer plays the organ for the audience.  Leaving the cathedral, Therese Bourdin tells Schweitzer that she will be taking publicity pictures and would like to follow them around for a day or two.  Schweitzer gets a check from the church and thanks the people around him for their generosity.  The Schweitzers have been at their present hospital since 1924. In the audience is Albert Einstein, and Schweitzer, has him come up the stairs so the people can see him.  Therese asks if she can get some pictures of the two famous men together.  Einstein comments that that now-a-days it might not do Schweitzer any good to be seen hob-knobbing with a dangerous commie like him. 

The Schweitzers stay at a luxurious place.  There Einstein comes to see them again.  Einstein wants the doctor to join the ban the bomb campaign.  Helene says no. "We have to be so careful with these politics.  You know, the funds from America."  Einstein says he knows that.  He adds:  "They have been very busy lately with opening letters, bugging phones after that terrible McCarthy man."

The next day Therese takes photos in her studio of the Schweitzers.  And they talk of their work.  Their first hospital was not much more than a shed. 

The Schweitzers are being tailed by men writing down what the couple is doing during the day.

The couples speak to other doctors about the problems they had with the medicine men.  "They believed that illness was caused by a worm in the body."    The doctors had to tell the people that they were going to cut out the worm from the body, but would then perform the necessary operation.  But sometimes the medicine men would subject the relatives to punishment for letting the white doctor do things his way, rather than the traditional way.  Sometimes the relatives would commit suicide after being publicly humiliated by the medicine man. 

Helene gives a talk to the Americans.  She says that they lost their little hospital in WWI.  They were Germans, so the French put them in a horrible prison.  Helene caught tuberculosis.  They had a baby that they named Rhena, who now has four children of her own.  A woman stands up to say that she read in the Colliers magazine that Dr. Schweitzer has connections with communist youth organizations in that new part of Germany.  Helene says that her husband greets people from all over the world, but it doesn't mean that he agrees to everything the people say to him. 

Schweitzer speaks to a group of people.  He tells them about his belief in the "reverence for live".   A man planted in the group gets up to denounce Schweitzer as just another commie.  The man is forcefully escorted out of the room.  Nevertheless, this brings an end to Schweitzer's talk.  A man now comes up to Therese saying that what happened back there was just terrible and he was wondering if he could be of any assistance.  He says his name is Phil Figgis.  Phil claims to be a lifetime fan of all of Schweitzer's works.  He just loves what Schweitzer stands for and he wants to help raise money for the Schweitzer hospital in Gabon.  Therese is told to come along now as they are leaving.  She tells Phil to come by the hotel in the morning and they can talk some more.

Phil shows up and Therese vouches for him saying that Phil is going to help raise funds for the hospital. Phil gives his little pep-talk and then leaves.  The Schweitzers are now off to see their daughter Rhena and their four grandchildren.  When they get to Rhena's place the mail brings bad news for the Schweitzer hospital  A shipment with drugs has gone missing, and maybe sold.  Then the Gabonese Provisional Authority has stopped the work on the leper village and they threaten to close down the hospital for health and safety considerations.  Dr. Schweitzer says he will have to rush back to Gabon to stop all this nonsense.  Rhena is disappointed that father and mother now have to leave, when they just got here. 

Phil is making plans to go with Therese to the Schweitzer hospital. 

Rhena tells her mother that everything is done to please father.  She thinks mother should have more of say in the things that they do, but mother is always loyal to her husband.  Therese arrives at Rhena's house.  Mother tells Rhena to let Therese into the house. Then mother notices that Phil has come with Therese.  She happily invites Phil into the house.  Mother introduces Rhena to the two New Yorkers.  A little later Helene tells Phil that the doctor has gone back to Africa. 

Port Gentil, Gabon.  Dr. Schweitzer checks on the boxes for him coming in through the port.  He tells the manager that it looks like all his stuff has been deliberately shoved to the back. The manager says he will get the stuff loaded right away.  He says he knew nothing of this situation. 

Some wealthy, influential person is watching Einstein talk about the danger of atomic weapons.  The man is totally disgusted by Einstein and his message and shuts off the television. 

Phil is with Therese in a bar drinking.  Phil gets a phone call from America.  It's a call denouncing Einstein for his political efforts.  Before hanging up, Phil asks the man who is that FBI agent following them all around town?  The fellow nearly screwed things up for Phil at Columbia University.  Phil is then given the name of Ngoota.  Phil asks if the man is official or a "front".  He is told that is on a need to know basis only.  Phil says okay and returns to Therese. 

Schweitzer returns home.  He receives a very warm reception. He tells his staff that they must have an emergency meeting within a half hour.  He then goes to the leper village where Minkoe tells him that the soldiers start hitting the workers when they start to work on the building of the village.  Schweitzer calls all the lepers together and he acknowledges that they have had a rough time of late, but he promises that they will get their leper village. 

With his staff, Schweitzer says a lot of funny things are going on around here.  And he was given a complete run-around when he tried to fix the problems with the Gabon government.  He says:  "They don't want to know."  He suspects it's some kind of conspiracy against his hospital and himself.  Dr. Fuller wonders it these troubles are not associated with the politics of the atomic bomb.  It may be a reaction to Dr. Schweitzer's opposition to the H-bomb.  Just maybe they are trying to make Schweitzer look bad.  Dr. Hals says that a well-spoken man named Louis Ngouta came out to investigate the hospital.

Ngouta shows up at the hospital again.  With him is his colleague, Sgt. Moses Achebe.  Ngouta says that they are planning to build a modern hospital just up river from Schweitzer's hospital.  Schweitzer asks if he and his hospital are to be steamrolled up in some commercial adventure like an old two-wheeled market cart? 

Schweitzer has another emergency meeting with his staff.  The good doctor thinks that Dr. Hals is somewhat of a betrayer.  He asks the staff what he should do?  There are mixed opinions.  It's really up to Schweitzer himself to decide what to do. 

Therese and Phil arrive along with the mail at the Schweitzer hospital.  

Ngouta has lunch with Schweitzer and the hospital staff.  Therese and Phil arrive a little late but there are two places set for them.  Schweitzer asks Ngouta if Gabon is ready for independence?   Ngouta says that they have to look prepared to become independent at all times. 

Rhena has the Herald which has a critical article about Einstein and Schweitzer.  They are reviled as two secret communists.  They also call for the closing down of Schweitzer's hospital.  Mother says she must go back to Gabon to aid her husband.  Rhena says she will go with mother to Gabon. 

Phil is obviously digging for dirt on Schweitzer.  He follows Schweitzer when he dumps some thing into the river at night.  He asks the disrespectful Susi to expand on her explosions against the doctor, but she refuses to do so. Phil suggests to the boys that Schweitzer makes them work too hard.  The boys say they like doing things for the doctor. So Phil goes looking for Ngouta to get some of their negative views on Schweitzer.  And now Therese is starting to become suspicious of Phil. 

Susi goes to Schweitzer to tell him she's sorry for being so disrespectful to the doctor.  She says that Phil guy is a bit weird hanging around.  He talks too much. 

That night Schweitzer writes a letter to the editor of the Washington Post about the uncontrolled production of atomic bomb.  After writing a few things down, he tears up his letter.

Dr. Hals tells Ngouta that if Ngouta is looking to criticize and harm Schweitzer, he cannot be counted on.  Ngouta replies that Schweitzer is lucky to have Dr. Hals.  As Ngouta leaves, we see Phil secretly listening to the two men's conversations.

Ngouta and the sergeant are leaving.  Phil grabs Ngouta and asks him about what will happen to the Schweitzer hospital?  Ngouta refuses to comment but the sergeant bluntly tells Phil:  "Schweitzer can stay.  And the rest --  we cut their throats."

Helene and Rhena now arrive at the hospital.  The people are all excited to receive them.  Schweitzer is very glad to welcome them. 

At night Helene tells her husband that the newspapers have gotten a hold of Schweitzer's letters to Einstein and are using the material against Schweitzer.  She's afraid her husband doesn't understand the evil intentions of the government in the USA.  She says they aim to discredit Schweitzer and close down his hospital.  Rhena comes in and asks a good question about the Americans:  "What kind of people are these?  We can't let them win."

Therese finds that the boys have found a live mine and are playing with it.  She hollers out to go get Dr. Schweitzer.  The mine was kept behind a fence that also holds an out dated x-ray machine.  Schweitzer, Fuller and Therese go into the woods to the fenced in area.  There they find out that someone has been messing with the fence and the X-ray equipment and it wasn't the boys. Schweitzer is extremely mad and now he really knows that the Americans will go to any length to bring him down.   The mines in the fenced off area are radioactive, but someone cut open the fence, the boys went in and, not knowing the situation, picked up and played with radioactive mines.  Now he wonders what won't the government do next?  And now he decides to publicly support Einstein and the others. 

Schweitzer calls his staff together and says that he is afraid that his continuing on here is damaging the hospital.   He has many enemies, especially in America and they are faceless.  "These are men that are driven by fear.  They're frightened of imaginary dangers, so they create real ones."  He add that it's best if he leaves the hospital.  "But for now, dear friends, goodbye. "  He starts to cry as he gets up and leaves the room.  Anna cries the most. 

And now that Schweitzer is to be gone tomorrow, the soldiers start tearing down the hospital.  Sgt. Achebe says this hospital has to be closed now.  People start leaving the area.  The people say that when there's no big doctor at the hospital, there is no need to stay.

The next day Schweitzer is greeted by a huge crowd of black faces.  They are very relieved to see that their great doctor is still here.  They give the doctor a great applause.  Then they start singing in Bantu in praise of the great man.  Ngouta is there too, but he's not happy.  So he goes to the great doctor and tells him he may continue on with his hospital for awhile.  He leaves with his sergeant and the soldiers.  Phil runs after Ngouta, looking over his shoulder to see if anyone notices him.  Slowly, Therese follows after Phil. 

Phil can't understand why they are not going to close down the hospital.  He says he has plenty of material to justify the hospital closing.  Ngouta finally tells him:  "I think you're being deliberately offensive."  He gets in the boat and takes off with the others.  Therese takes a picture of Phil on the dock pleading with his "friends".  She is disgusted with Phil and will have nothing more to do with him now. 

Schweitzer gets a telegram.  He is to be honored internationally.  He receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.  His wife and daughter are there in the audience. 

Schweitzer used the Nobel Peace Prize money to complete the building of the leper village. The work of Schweitzer, Einstein and others eventually led to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  Rhena worked on at Lambarene, taking over the direction of the hospital after Schweitzer's death.  The hospital's work continues today, supported by American, European and Gabonese donations. 


There are many conservative people in America that would  and do praise the work of Joseph McCarthy.  They would like to promote such a climate of fear again to punish the American liberals who, they think, are dangerous people.  Liberals fight against the new conservatives re-imposing McCarthyism, but it's a difficult task fighting the racism running rampant in the Republican party these days.  Like Rhena we all need to ask:   "What kind of people are these?  We can't let them win."

It is despicable that American conservatives would create a system of fear and repression because they felt that some Americans and others were commies.  And it's despicable that a group of Republicans are trying to create another reign of terror among the evil and the gullible.  2016, day after Obama denounces the Republican lies deliberately spread for their own self-promotion, calling the American economy weak, the American military weak, and the American government evil and weak.  Speak truth to the lies of the conservatives to save the world from these fascist-like conservatives. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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