Death of Mr. Lazarescu

(2005) dir Cristi Puiu – w/ Ion Fiscuteanu as the eponymous Lazarescu, and a few other people, hospitals.

Synopsis: Mr. Lazarescu feels unwell, and calls an ambulance.  His neighbors harangue him for drinking, his family doesn’t want much to do with him, and various doctors, nurses, and EMTs (their Romanian equivalents, anyway) poke fun and insult him.  The plot is both incredibly straightforward, and not.

Review: Given the title and synopsis, you’d expect this to be a depressing move–and you’d be right.  You’d also expect it to be slow, and you might be wrong.  “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” is meandering but methodical: not plodding, exactly, but certainly not speedy.  It is difficult to watch at parts, and bleak, and wrenching, but somehow also wry, and knowing, and rarely long.

I can’t entirely explain what makes this movie compelling.  There are brief glimmers of humanity, but they’re very often quashed by selfishness and indifference.  People are in a hurry.  They’re tired of being told things by others.  They don’t want other people to tell them what their jobs are, and they’re tired; it’s late.  And the old man probably just wants attention, they reason.  Stop drinking.  Don’t be so sick.  Get rid of that cat, why don’t you?  There is no good or evil in this story.  If there is any kind of hope, it surfaces in the most unlikely, unfulfillable ways.

Rating: [••••] out of [•••••]