- September 22, 2005
Slice of death
„The Death of Mr.Lazarescu”, „a sort of an urban legend”, as film critic Alex Leo Șerban has defined it, is a representative Romanian film for the history of Romanian cinematography, not only locally, but especially internationally. With „The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu” the Romanian cinematography enters the history of universal cinematography for good, and on a high position too. Winner of the „Un Certain Regard” Award at Cannes Film Festival in 2005, the film of director Cristi Puiu will remain as one of the Romanian films that have „shocked” the West, exposing a dramatic social reality: the sick health system of a post-communist Eastern European country. Besides the impeccable directing and screenplay, actors Luminița Gheorghiu, Ion Fiscuteanu, Gabriel Spahiu also play valuable parts that have brought them to the public and international critics’ attention.
Director: Cristi Puiu
Scriptwriter: Cristi Puiu and Răzvan Rădulescu
Cast: Luminița Gheorghiu, Ion Fiscuteanu, Gabriel Spahiu, Doru Ana, Dana Dogaru, Mimi Brănescu, Adrian Titieni, Anca Puiu, Florin Zamfirescu, Andrei Șerban, Alexandru Potocean, Șerban Pavlu, Rodica Lazăr, Dragoș Bucur, Dorian Boguță, Alina Berzunteanu, Monica Bârlădeanu, Bogdan Dumitrache
Produced by: Alexandru Munteanu, Anca Puiu, Bobby Păunescu
Cinematography by: Andrei Butică, Oleg Mutu
Film editing by: Dana Bunescu
Category: feature film
Duration: 153 minutes
296,250 – Cinepub viewers
63-year-old Mr. Lazarescu, a widower, living alone in a flat with his three cats, is not feeling well. He has a bad headache and has been vomiting. He feels that it is something more serious than the pain caused by his ulcer and the hangovers caused by his regular excessive drinking. He calls for an ambulance, and after convincing the skeptical dispatcher that he is not simply drunk, he begins the long wait for help to arrive. Eventually, he visits his neighbors, Sandu and Miki in search of stronger pain relievers. They are busy and reluctant to help him, but eventually realize that something may be seriously wrong with the smelly old drunkard. Sandu takes him back to his apartment, and, later, the paramedic, Mioara finally arrives.
After ascertaining that Lazarescu has been drinking to excess, she considers giving him an aspirin and going on her way, but a quick examination shows that the old man is in severe pain, and Mioara begins to suspect that he is gravely ill. Thus begins a long, unpleasant journey from one hospital to another, as Lazarescu faces a backlog of patients caused by a massive traffic accident, and the cold indifference of arrogant doctors who appear hesitant to cure a man who has seemingly destroyed his own health.
„An honest film (obviously, Man can’t win in front of Death), powerful and true” (Alex Leo Șerban, film critic), „The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu” approaches an apparently simple topic: an old man, living alone, starts feeling ill. An ambulance is called. Processually speaking, this should be the end of the journey, but it is only the beginning, Mr. Lazarescu’s trips from one hospital to another becomes more and more serious, as he is seen by several doctors in several hospitals.
From a victim (of his illness), Mr. Lazarescu becomes a suspect, and then stands accused. The worse he feels, the more suspicious he becomes, and the least can be done for him. Doctors and nurses seem like robots of procedures and protocols, when, if ever, they stop to show some sort of interest in the patient. Otherwise, besides his modest financial condition, Mr. Lăzărescu has another disadvantage: his age. In a society burdened by poverty, on a sinking ship, old people are removable weights, to be thrown overboard, useless consumers of resources. The only human connection visible in all this purgatory the protagonist has to go through is the empathy of the ambulance outstandingly played by Luminița Gheorghiu.
The minimalist filming technique, the cold lights, the dry objectiveness of the frames dismisses any attempt to interpret Mr. Lazarescu’s exit from this world in a symbolic key (as might have been the case with Mircea Daneliuc) amplifying this evidence of the real, this reality recital presented by Cristi Puiu with this Romanian film.
„The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu” has smoothed the way for other Romanian films to the attention of prestigious international juries, which makes it natural to have it listed on the Romanian films online platform Cinepub.ro.
What critics say:
“One of the most harrowing and wholly convincing movies I’ve seen for several years, CristiPuiu’s The Death of Mr.Lazarescu, tells a story that could take place in any country in the world today boasting something by way of a health service. It happens, however, to be set in Bucharest, capital of Romania, where the eponymous 62-year-old widower is insulted, injured, patronised and generally ill-treated during the last eight or nine hours of his life from mid-evening to dawn the next day.” (Philip French – www.theguardian.com )
“The grinding ordeal endured by the ailing title character of “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” a thorny masterpiece by the Romanian director Cristi Puiu, concludes well after 3 a.m. in a Bucharest hospital as he lies dying, unattended on a gurney. That’s more than five hours after this 62-year-old patient (Ion Fiscuteanu) is carted by ambulance from his shabby, foul-smelling apartment to the first of four unwelcoming city hospitals. As the hours slip away, his strength deteriorates and his speech declines from gnarly complaining to barely audible nonsense into silence.” (Stephen Holden – www.nytimes.com )
“What’s up, Romica? Stomach again or has it moved to the pancreas?”
“Mascara doesn’t help you, if you don’t know how to speak.”
“Look at the zipper he’s got. But he doesn’t care.”
”Put him on a slide!”
“I’d say you stop playing doctor.”
Nominations and winner:
- Nominated for European Film Award, European Director (Cristi Puiu), European Screenwriter (CristiPuiu, Răzvan Rădulescu), European Film Awards – 2005
- Nominated for Best Foreign Film, Independent Spirit Awards – 2006
- Special Mention, IndieLisboa International Independent Film Festival – Portugal, 2006
- ICP Award for Best Film, 3rd place ICP Award for Best Director, Nominated for Best Supporting Performance (Luminița Gheorghiu), Best Lead Performance (Ion Fiscuteanu), Indiewire Critics’ Poll – 2006
- Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, London Critics Circle Film Awards – Great Britain, 2007
- Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards – USA, 2006
- Amnesty International Award and Propeller of Motovun Award, Motovun Film Festival – Crosti, 2005
- Best Film, Best Actress (LuminitaGheorghiu), Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film – Belgium, 2005
- 2nd place – NSFC Award – Best Film, National Society of Film Critics Awards – USA, 2007
- Best Foreign Language Film (3rd place) – New York Film Critics Circle Awards – USA, 2006
- Norwegian Film Critics Award, Norwegian International Film Festival – Norway, 2005
- FIPRESCI Prize for Best Actor (Ion Fiscuteanu), Palm Springs International Film Festival – 2006
- Best Film, Reykjavik International Film Festival – Iceland, 2005
- Special Citation, San Francisco Film Critics Circle – USA, 2006
- Don Quixote Award – Special Mention, special Jury Prize, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival – Estonia, 2005
- Audience Award, Best Direction, Best Performance – Best Actor (Ion Fiscuteanu) and Best Actress (Luminița Gheorghiu), Best Romanian Film, FIPRESCI Prize, Transylvania International Film Festival – Romania, 2005
- Prize Trieste, Trieste Film Festival – Italy, 2006
- ICP Award for Best Film, 3rd place ICP Award for Best Director
- “Un Certain Regard” Award, Cannes Film Festival – France, 2005
- Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention, Special Jury Prize, Special Mention, Bratislava International Film Festival – Slovakia, 2005
- Special Jury Prize ”Silver Hugo”, Chicago International Film Festival – USA, 2005
- Best Actor (Ion Fiscuteanu), Jury Special Prize (Cristi Puiu) – Copenhagen International Film Festival