The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Cristi Puiu
viewed: 10/23/06

Strangely marketed as “The Most Acclaimed Comedy of the Year”, this is a Romanian film about a very ill 63-year old man and his passage from emergency room to emergency room as he quickly becomes more and more ill.  Maybe it is a comedy, because as bleak as the story is and as harsh as it could seem, it comes off as some Kafkaesque journey toward death in Eastern Europe.  There certainly is a strong message of social criticism, as the titular Mr. Lazarescu (who unlike Lazarus doesn’t seem to have much chance to revive), is turned away by one hospital and another where despite his deeply fading health he is not given priority.

He is frequently criticized for his drinking and his swollen liver makes it clear that whether its colon cancer or cirrhosis of the liver, he’s doomed.  His health deteriorates faster and faster as he seeks out medical treatment, even with the help of one caring ambulance nurse.  And his treatment that he seems to be getting toward the end is brain surgery.

There is some humanity speckled in this mixture of misanthropic doctors, neighbors, family, and other potential caregivers.  As pessimistic as it is and as it sounds, the tone and style of the film is not unlike the work of Jim Jarmusch to be honest.  There is a simplicity to the camera-work and a real sense of the life and environment of this man in his tenement with his three cats in Bucharest.


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