Three tuberculosis patients fight “the lone game”--and the melancholy of that title is as suffocating as the disease. Fictionalized yet rooted in sad reality, the film makes me hesitate: Intended as education, does it also seek to “entertain”? The narratives move with predictable certainty toward recovery or death. And, while the messages are vital--the effect of treatment, the economic barriers, the contagious element--there is a sense of intrusion here, as we watch the actors cough, their faces drawn, the unhealthy environment threatening. Nothing seems certain or steady in this film; all is frailty under the weight of those laboring lungs.
My squeamishness may be accentuated by my own fear of TB--the idea of suffocation fills me with particular dread--and perhaps I should admit that one of cinema’s strengths always will be misdirection: the social ill becomes the personal drama--which in turn becomes the viewer’s, enlisted by the Red Cross to anticipate one’s own infection--and one’s responsibility to not only the sufferer but the self.
I will let it go, then. Edison seems almost out of his own “game”--the film business--but (as he has since the beginning) he knows that the act of seeing is believing--and, here at least, we are asked to believe the truth.