classic film

Five-star cinema: ‘Ivan’s Childhood’ by Andrei Tarkovsky

Innocence is the first casualty of war in the Russian master’s unforgettable debut.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s directorial debut opens with a dream, or is it a nightmare? Twelve-year-old Ivan (Nikolai Burlyayev) is sailing on the top of trees. Below his feet are nature’s bounty and his beloved mother. He snaps out of his vision in a cold and dark room, which reveals how far Ivan has travelled from his immediate past. His family is dead, but Ivan is frighteningly alive. One of the countless casualties of WWII, the precocious but disturbed child has made himself useful to Russian troops fighting the Germans by carrying out reconnaissance missions. A soldier keeps trying to enroll Ivan in a military boarding school, but the boy wants instant revenge against the “Fritzes”, as the Germans are derogatorily called.

Play

Ivan’s Childhood, based on Vladimir Bogomolov’s novella Ivan, came after other Russian cinematic explorations of the emotional and psychological impact of WWII, notably Ballad of a Soldier (1959). Ivan’s Childhood is an early indication of the poetic humanism and mysticism that would result in such masterpieces as Solaris, Stalker and Mirror. Tarkovsky fills his non-linear narrative with surreal and hallucinatory compositions. Prose meets poetry in the realistic depictions of life in the Army barracks and trenches and the stylised dream logic that governs Ivan’s thoughts. Even an interlude involving a love triangle between soldiers and a nurse in a tree-lined forest becomes an experience of the ordinary.

Play
The kiss in the woods.

An old man whom Ivan meets while wandering through the ruins of his house prophetically says, “No stove or chimney will ever burn down.” Ivan can never escape the power of his memories, and Tarkovsky’s eye ensures that nobody who has watched Ivan’s Childhood will ever forget the true meaning of war.

Nikolai Burlyayev’s indelible performance captures the confusion, abjectness and tragedy of WWII. The Germans are understandably the villains here, but Tarvoksky’s message is equally aimed at any government, authoritarian or otherwise, that willingly pushes its population into the jaws of death. After the war ends, Russian soldiers wander in shock through a German house of horrors, where prisoners of war and partisans have been hung from the rafters. Here, they find the starkest possible evidence of how they have failed Ivan, the boy who became a man far too soon.

Ivan during the war...
Ivan during the war...
... and by the end of the conflict.
... and by the end of the conflict.

The state-run Mosfilm studio that produced Ivan’s Childhood was flummoxed by the poetic flourishes, Tarkovsky writes in the book of essays Sculpting in Time. With his first feature, Tarkovsky was laying down the foundation for his directorial vision, one that is made up of dreams and visions, fragmented and associative imagery and the disruption of textbook linearity. “Isolated impressions of the day have set off impulses within us, evoked associations; objects and circumstances have stayed in our memory, but with no sharply defined contours, incomplete, apparently fortuitous. Can these impressions of life be conveyed through film? They undoubtedly can; indeed, it is the especial virtue of cinema, as the most realistic of the arts, to be the means of such communication,” Tarkovsky writes.

Mother and son look down a well.
Mother and son look down a well.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.