Death Through Indifference By Emília Kincelová
The story of the Romanian film The Death of Mr.Lazarescu, presented at the 7th International Film Festival Bratislava, which develops over the course of its 154 minute running time, is in the style of a classical Aristotelian narrative. The director of the film, Cristi Puiu has chosen a slow pace: every shot and gesture is thoroughly elaborated and one wonders how long the director will be able to maintain the audiences’ attention. Not only did the director succeed in this, but he actually manages to so thoroughly absorb the spectator to the point that the time spent in the cinema passes by unawares. This mere fact is remarkable, for it is rare. The story is simple. Sixty-three year old Lazarescu lives alone in a devastated tenement house with three cats; his daughter lives in Canada. One night he falls ill, an ambulance is called, and his Odyssey starts. The man is getting worse, he is moved from one hospital to another, they are not able to diagnosis his illness, and the staff treats the unfortunate patient as a mere nuisance. Maybe, they do not want to help him. It often seems that they do not know how to help him, as the man is obviously dying. But this should not be reduced to the simplistic statement that this is how hospitals in Eastern Bloc work. It might be partly true, but not entirely. But the author aspires to far more than all this. He wants to stir the audience, he wants to point to the incapacity of people to communicate, to peoples indifference towards others troubles, to their unconcerned attitudes towards life values and their lack of professionalism, in this case in medical care. All this is brilliantly conveyed to the spectator with the simplest of means. The author is getting under the skin of the audience to such an extent that he obliges the viewer to ponder the transitory nature of things, to enjoy every moment of life, and to pray not to run into similar ‘experts’… It is obvious that anyone living in any large city can be struck by a misfortune similar to that of Lazarescu in Bucharest.
The movie is in fact a memento and a challenge. Its message is that a world where love for our fellow humans is absent cannot sustain itself. The precise camera of Oleg Mutu and Andrei Butica which serves to accente small details supports the above idea. The urgency of the film’s statement is also underlined by the work of the main actor, Ion Fiscuteanu. However, the final form and effect of the story should be mostly attributable to director Cristi Puiu, who is also the co-author of the script. It is no mere coincidence that the movie obtained recognition at the 58th IFF at Cannes in section Un certain regard and three awards at the Festival in Bratislava, the Special Recognition of the Jury, Special Recognition of the Ecumenical Jury and the Award of the Student Jury.