Mr Lazarescu is an elderly gentleman, who lives alone with
his cats. When he starts to feel ill he calls an ambulance
in the hope that a trip to hospital will sort him out. What
starts as a simple belief soon turns to a dying nightmare
as Mr Lazarescu is shunted from one hospital to another all
the time getting weaker and closer to death...
Death of Mr Lazarescu (Moartea Domnului Lazarescu,
2005) is the fourth film directed by Cristi Puiu and is a
multi-award winning film from Romania. The film is touted
as a black comedy and as such relies heavily on the skill
of the subtitler. Although, I'm sure that a lot of the nuances
have been lost in translation, the writing is skilful enough
for you to get most of the subtleties of the increasingly
warned that this is a long film. With a running time of two
and a half hours it would be reasonable to wonder if watching
someone being shunted around an uncaring health system would
not be akin to watching paint dry. Nothing could be further
from the truth. The experience is more like watching a compelling
slow motion car crash, with the audience placed in the position
of helpless onlooker, unable to change the course of this
personal tragedy. It is, at points, absurd, poignant, funny
story is very reminiscent of Kafka's The Trial. What
we have is an individual trapped in an impersonal system.
The doctors and nurses that he meets are, in the main, caring,
but it is the system which kills Mr Lazarescu.
The actors were unknown to me, but that didn't stop their
performances being riveting. Ion Fiscuteanu, who played the
doomed Lazarescu carries most of the film, delivers a naturalistic
performance which endears him to the audience - making his
eventual demise even more tragic.
options are limited to stereo and 5.1, with English subtitles;
however both tracks do not do an injustice to the film. The
extras, whilst interesting, are not overwhelming in number.
However what it lacks in numbers it makes up in quality.
is an interview with director Cristi Puiu, running at forty-five
minutes, which is presented in English, and looks at how to
make a film in Romania, where investment money is virtually
non-existent. He speaks openly about his own health scare
and its influence in his film making. Cristi comes over as
a very genuine and engaging individual when he talks about
the genesis of the film and his own musings on the art of
film making. Not on the disc, but promised on the PR blurb,
is the 2004 twelve minute short film, also by Puiu, Cigarettes
and Coffee which itself won two film awards and was nominated
for a further two. There is an interview with Dr Fred Berlin,
not really sure why this was included except as a form of
reassurance for Americans that they won't end up being treated
like poor Mr Lazarescu. Actually, when he stops reassuring
us that we wont suffer the same fate he has some interesting
insights into the failings of health care systems. Of course
to round things off you get the inevitable trailer.
If you didn't catch this in your local art house cinema the
give yourself a treat and buy the DVD