Dir: Cristi Puiu, 2005, Romania (153 mins)
Ion Fiscuteanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Doru Ana
Mr Lazarescu is unwell. He has a hunch that his headache is related to old stomach surgery, or maybe his leg ulcer, but his self-administered concoction of aspirin and tummy calmers washed down with cheap alcohol isn’t doing the trick. Turning grey, he feeds the cats and calls the ambulance. So begins this long journey of suffering as we lay witness to Lazarescu’s dying hours of vomit, incontinence and complaint.
Shot in stark naturalism with handheld camera work, there is no music or levity to this drowsy dose of social realism. The humour is of the blackest shade of tragic, found in the dark if occasionally forgiving view of the overworked and tired medical staff who shuttle Lazarescu from hospital to hospital. The nuances are slight however. The result is fundamentally soporific, and suitable only for those with a strong constitution who prefer to take their depictions of poverty and mortality without sweetener. Kate Taylor