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Tell Me If It Hurts (1934)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

In a restaurant, customers and waiters go about their business, to the accompaniment of The Blue Danube waltz: people chewing; a waiter pulling a cork; glasses filled; a cigar being lit; the barman at work. A man watches expectantly as a waiter serves his meal. He begins to eat and bends over his plate to shovel the food in. At a pause in the music, he lowers his fork slowly to the plate. He feels his jaw and grimaces. A sip of wine pains him and he gets up to leave. He telephones a dental nurse and calls the waiter over. While complaining about the bill, he feels more pain and grudgingly pays so he can leave.

The man hails a taxi and leans from the window to issue directions. During his frenzied journey the numerous frustrations include a traffic jam in Piccadilly, the repeated appearances of an advertisement on a bus reading "Dentists recommend" and men drilling the road. Arriving at the dentist's, the patient is shown to the waiting room, where a clock ticks loudly. He turns a Toby jug with protruding teeth to the wall, spins a coin on the table and looks at copies of The Bystander, the only magazine available. All the adverts in the magazine concern dental care and the patient blacks the teeth of a smiling model.

Eventually, the patient is led to the dentist's chair. He writhes in pain while the dentist establishes which tooth is bothering him. Preparing his equipment, the dentist makes conversation about the drought, his garden and the Test matches. He asks the patient if the latter has seen The Bystander recently. The dentist postpones drilling while the nurse asks a question. While the patient's tooth is drilled, his pain is represented by distorted shots of a fast train and a close up of a spinning drill against a black background. The dentist consecutively informs the patient that his work will not hurt a bit, may hurt a bit and definitely will hurt. The dentist tells the patient that he cannot save the tooth and it will have to come out. The patient looks miserable and bewildered.