International Film: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)

For this weeks International film, Sofia Chiscop discusses The death of Mr. Lazarescu

Sofia Chiscop
10th February 2020
Image: IMDB

How could one describe Cristi Puiu’s film? Realistic? Grim? Funny? The Death of Mr Lazarescu [Romanian: Moartea Domnului Lazarescu] is all that and so much more. 

Nothing good ever comes out of hypochondria one might say. Well, hypochondria brought Puiu the best film award in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2005. With The death of Mr Lazarescu a page was turned in Romanian cinema, this being the first Romanian film to have such a positive reaction abroad.

A despairing plot, a bleak setting and Puiu still managed to subtly introduce faith in humanity.

That being said, the years spent in doctors’ offices proved to be worth it when creating the story of Mr Lazarescu. At a first glance, this is a film about death, its presence being felt throughout the whole film while Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) is swept from one hospital to another as his conditioning is getting worse. Thinking back, I was surprised by how gracefully Puiu mixed the drama that is the Romanian public health system, dark humour, and tenderness. A despairing plot, a bleak setting, and Puiu still managed to subtly introduce faith in humanity.

On the surface, the inaugural movie in the series depicts an image of the Romanian healthcare system. However, its meaning goes deeper. What kills Lazarescu is the society that he lives in. The indifference that humans treat one another with. A world where Lazarescu's neighbour doesn't let her husband go with him to the hospital because "she doesn't want to be alone on a Saturday night"; a world where despite his grave condition, the doctors refuse to admit him and keep sending him to another hospital; a world where a doctor tells his patient "It's shit, you don't have anything". This is what kills Lazarecu, an old man, who instead of complaining about the pain that he is in, is concerned about what is going to happen to his cats while he's gone.

A foreigner may be shocked by this movie, by the dialogues and the settings, by its vulgarity. Still, as a Romanian, I found this movie so painfully realistic that I couldn't help but laugh.

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