If our life is a journey, then death is a hidden traveling companion. In old times, people who were dying are taken care by loved ones in their homes, but nowadays, far too many people die in hospitals in the presence of strangers, and without dignity. One of the horrors of our generation is the indifferent health system. Cristi Puiu's “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” a low-budget Romanian film is a pitch black comedy, which traces the downward spiral of 63-year-old ulcer sufferer Dante Lazarescu through the hell of Bucharest's health care system. The movie happens and depicts a post-modern world world where love for our fellow human doesn't exist, and in which a man's basic needs for care and help are absurdly ignored by those around him.
'Real' and 'Reel' always portray a different world, but in this movie they are virtually synonymous. The film was shot in a documentary style. There are not many cuts, and the story moves in what seems to be real time.
Mr. Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) is a retired engineer pensioner, a alcoholic, who had an operation for an ulcer 14 years ago. He is a widower of eight years living in a dumpy Bucharest apartment, with three cats. One day, he wakes with an headache and a bad stomach. After a day of ineffectual self-medication, he beckons the help of his neighbors, and waits for the ambulance. The ambulance arrives at last at 10 p.m. with a paramedic named Mioara (Luminita Gheorghiu). The paramedic calls his older sister who lives far away and promises to visit him tomorrow, but none of the neighbors accompany him.
There has been a accident in the town and hospitals are packed with emergency patients, so nobody has the time to look at Mr. Lazarescu. He is packed off from one hospital to another, and everybody comments that he smells bad and has been drinking. He finally gets a CAT scan at one hospital, and the diagnosis tells that he need a immediate surgery. But, the doctors are busy to operate on him immediately, therefore he is sent to another hospital. Here, he is unable to sign the consent form and he has no relative to sign for him, so the treatment is refused. As doctors and nurses complain about being underpaid and understaffed, Lazarescu sinks deeper into unconsciousness, and begins to ramble about his family and old memories.
The black comic tone of this movie captures the human comedy in this tragedy. Director Cristi Puiu condemns the incompetence of Romanian health service and the human vanity. Puiu, who has written the script along with Razvan Radulesu, has chosen a documentary-approach, which leaves the interpretation to us. He shows Lazarescu's clothes, cats, his apartments, offering enough information for the audience to imagine the rest of his life. Puiu doesn't sentimentalize any characters, even the old Lazarescu, and there are no villains. Working for large, impersonal bureaucracies, and to face suffering on large scale, these doctors and nurses need to toughen up, so their portrayals are acute. Seamlessly choreographed and edited the film seems to unfold in a single, unbroken movement.
Fiscuteanu as Lazarescu gives a unheralded great movie performance. The performance seems more audacious, since the movie doesn't decorate it with any of the grand flourishes that cheesy movie-making can provide. His suffering is overpowering and his situation is so heartbreaking that the whole film seems very real.
Despite the running time of two and a half hours, you will be riveted to the screen as you watch the endless humiliations endured on Lazarescu. In the modern world, one of the most frightening forms of death is dying alone. The movie "The Death of Mr.Lazarescu" shows a modern version of hell, and you might feel that no human being should have to go through it in this dreadful way.
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu - IMDb