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Darrel Manson

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

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The "religious consolidation" question comes up all the time in Puiu's interviews--the DVD even includes a conversation that asks about the Christian references in the film. (Puiu explains that, for him, the idea was to communicate that ultimately we all die alone, just as Lazarus died alone--Jesus arrived after the fact.)

Here's a rough transcription of those sections of the interview. (Bear in mind that the director is speaking in English, which is not his first language).

Tell us about the Christian references in the film

Yeah, there is a chapter in the Bible, in St John's Gospel, and I was thinking a lot about this. About the fact that Jesus wasn't there when he died, and when he came he was already dead, Lazarus. And he resurrected him and so on. We know the story of the resurrection but we don't know how he died. This is a proposal of the pathetic death of Lazarus, the death and indifference. But I think we all of us die in indifference. Of course some people are paying attention, but it's the fear of death as fear of separation that hounds me. And the fact that


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THE DEATH OF MR LAZARESCU ("Moartea domnului Lazarescu," 2005, Romania, written and directed by Cristi Puiu)

It's a problem of mortality.

Dante Remus Lazarescu lives alone with his cats. He drinks more than he should, more than he admits. When it comes time to die, he is shunted from hospital to hospital by an endless series of health professionals


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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from the Catholic News Service review:

Like Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych, the trenchant Romanian drama traces the final exit of its protagonist. Only here, the ending is not tempered by hope and the real tragedy is how he is treated by those who are supposed to provide comfort and palliative care.

...

Deliberately paced, filmed with an unvarnished look and featuring understated performances, Puiu's perceptive commentary on health care, in charting Lazarescu's plight, poignantly brings attention to how uncaring bureaucracy and societal apathy can depreciate the dignity of a human being.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Okay, now THAT'S a funny movie poster:

http://www.soundtrackcollector.com/catalog...p?movieid=75234

(click on the image to enlarge it)

Oh my. So much for truth in advertising!


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I finally managed to pick up the DVD for this movie the other night.

I initially felt disappointed in the movie, but that was mainly due to how I was focused on the advertising of the film which billed it as a 'black comedy'. Though once thinking about it during the film it suddenly clicked that the frequent Dante Inferno / Biblical references were not just in my head. Truly a subtle black 'comedy' indeed.

on a side note: Hello all! First time poster here, as I just found out about the Artsandfaith.com boards recently (from the great site opuszine.com).

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Watched this again last night. Started a couple nights earlier, but my wife gave up on it just about the time the ambulance came.

I was much more aware this time of the people who do help. E.g., the doctor who gets him pushed to the front of the line for a CT scan by saying to the radiologist, "What if he were my mother-in-law's uncle?" Little bits of mercy along the way. To be sure, there are few who really step up as much as possible, and a few that downright refuse. For some it is because they are overwhelmed by the bus accident or by the long night they have had.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Saw this for the first time last night. Couldn't stop thinking about it all day long. I really think I love it.

I skimmed the thread, I'll probably go back and read all of it, but I did notice the differences of opinion over how Lazarescu was treated, and that weighed heavily into my reaction posted Here. Thought I'd paste the good parts, though:

But when you see it, make sure to pay attention to the tight proximal communion of the neighbors in the first forty minutes. See how they know each other by name, and even their kids' names, and which kid belongs to which neighbor. See how they lend to their neighbors in need, or how they offer food and their help in Lazarescu's hard-fought night. They might be pushy at times, but they're neighbors and they know it, and when push comes to shove they care for one another.

Later, contrast this tight proximal communion with authoritatively distant and dictator-like doctors and staff wrapped in political bureaucracy rather than a commitment to the dedication of care. You'll see that the doctors who have written Lazarescu off are like rich and powerful tyrants passing over the poverty of their people. You'll see a different kind of absurdum adding up. You'll see a new kind of communism, wrapped in the guise of "optimal health care."

A good portion of the rest of my reaction could be labeled, "Why This is Not a Comedy, Black or Otherwise."

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Short thread for such an excellent film. Good thoughts though, all the way around.

from the Catholic News Service review:

Like Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych, the trenchant Romanian drama traces the final exit of its protagonist. Only here, the ending is not tempered by hope and the real tragedy is how he is treated by those who are supposed to provide comfort and palliative care.

...

Deliberately paced, filmed with an unvarnished look and featuring understated performances, Puiu's perceptive commentary on health care, in charting Lazarescu's plight, poignantly brings attention to how uncaring bureaucracy and societal apathy can depreciate the dignity of a human being.

[emphasis mine]

I think this may have been what I was trying to get at yesterday and fleshed out a bit more over at Filmsweep. It hasn't really come up yet in this thread, so I'll blurt it out -- that's what people in post-communism are like! It isn't that they are necessarily uncaring or apathetic. They simply aren't in touch with their ability to make right choices. They're not even in touch with themselves, their true identity. Their identity has already been dictated to them for decades on end.

The hospital system is simply being shown for what it is -- a post-communist hospital. This is why I don't find an ounce of it comedic -- because it's really the way things work once the system is gone and people haven't learned how to make simple right choices for themselves and the good of others.

Is all this red tape and hand wringing and bureaucratic balogna in the wake of communist rule relegated solely to the confines of a hospital setting? No, it's in the train stations, the restaurants, the school systems, the military or post-military leftovers. It's in the church, too. It is unavoidable. It is locked thinking, in need of a key, but the key was thrown away with the dictator.

I find this film to be authentic on so many levels in comparison to a lot of what I saw in Russia in the early 90s.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I think this may have been what I was trying to get at yesterday and fleshed out a bit more over at Filmsweep. It hasn't really come up yet in this thread, so I'll blurt it out -- that's what people in post-communism are like! It isn't that they are necessarily uncaring or apathetic. They simply aren't in touch with their ability to make right choices. They're not even in touch with themselves, their true identity. Their identity has already been dictated to them for decades on end.

Huh. Interesting point. That bears out in California Dreamin as well. Not the greatest film, but it came to mind right away. This idea that some Eastern European films have all these ethical nuances and/or long and drawn out tragic fades due to institutional indecision because of gridlocked national or personal identity is really interesting.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Finally got to see this and, like "A Man Escaped" found it far more absorbing than I was expecting. The comparison with Kieslowski is I suppose obvious and has been made above, but it's front and centre from the get go. The range of approaches from the medical staff is impressive in just how many different shades of grey they manage to cram into the one film.

Two points on that which I don't think have been mentioned so far, firstly, that this is an exceptionally bad night for the medical staff. A major incident in the city. It's not surprising that the staff are stressed and on edge and perhaps prone to be a little more judgemental than we would hope. And our reflex judgements of them only make two of Jesus' sayings ring truer "Judge not last you be judged" and "take the log out your own eye first".

But also, and I admit initially this seems a trite comment, but I can't help but wonder how different this film would have been in smellovision. We get a visual realism, but not an olefactory one. Character after character comments on the stench, the cocktail of alcohol, vomit, urine, crap and perhaps the smell of death itself. I think most audiences would react differently to the various characters were that present. I'm not saying it would improve the film, just pointing out what a very different experience it would be.

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I just listened to the most recent episode of Philosophy Talk on NPR on Medical Consent. It reminded me of this film, which I saw in the past month or so. Lots of resonance with this film, and it really emphasized just how unethical the behavior of the medical staff is, especially at the first and third hospitals.

A few thoughts on earlier strands from this thread:

On 6/1/2014 at 5:10 PM, MattPage said:

The range of approaches from the medical staff is impressive in just how many different shades of grey they manage to cram into the one film.

This film felt like a series of riffs on the parable of the Good Samaritan, but emphasizing the gray area. What if the priest, Levite, or Samaritan had made sure the mugged man was alive, bandaged him, and helped him up, but then left him and said half-heartedly, “you’ll be fine”? Or what if they’d helped but then just said, “it’s your own fault for being in a position where you were mugged”? Or what if the innkeeper had said to the Samaritan, “Sorry, there is no room in the inn”! Or if the innkeeper had said, “That man clearly doesn’t want to stay at my inn. Now get lost, you stupid Samaritan”? Or if the innkeeper took him in but then let him die an undignified death anyway? It would be a much murkier parable.

On 1/6/2007 at 7:26 PM, Overstreet said:

And you're right, of course, about the allusions to Dante and to Lazarus. (But what about Remus? There must be something to that...)

Here's what I made of the allusion. Remus was the twin brother of Romulus, the founder of Rome and Roman culture. Romulus murdered Remus over a dispute on how the city should be founded. According to the myth, this act of violence was necessary for the foundation of Rome. Romania, as is obvious from its name, and like several other countries in Southern Europe, is the linguistic and cultural descendant of ancient Roman culture. I interpreted the allusion as meaning that modern Romania’s institutional foundation is built on the “murder” (via negligence, cynicism, etc.) of people like “Mr. Remus” Lazarescu, as portrayed in the film.

On 8/24/2006 at 9:24 AM, gigi said:

the so-called spoiler mentioned in an early post. Does he actually die? I thought not.

I think the real spoiler (though not really) is that he doesn't actually die in the film. Unless the cut to black at the end of the final scene signals the instant he dies? That's bleak.

I must admit that the shaky camera really was difficult for me, especially over an almost 2.5 hour film. It was making me nauseous! which I get is fitting for the film’s content. Still, although admiring a film’s formal elements and liking the film are often related, I found them divergent on this one.

On 5/18/2010 at 4:31 PM, Persona said:

The hospital system is simply being shown for what it is -- a post-communist hospital. This is why I don't find an ounce of it comedic -- because it's really the way things work once the system is gone and people haven't learned how to make simple right choices for themselves and the good of others.

Such an insightful comment!

I thought this film really paled in comparison to Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days and Beyond the Hills, both as films and even as social commentary along these lines. That latter film especially also deals with individuals blinded by established institutions (church, state, medical) with tragic consequences.

As a depiction of the failure of a heath care system, this works for me, but it doesn’t really translate into the American context where health care is so monetized and politicized. I’ve seen several documentaries and exposés about the evils of the US medical/pharmaceutical/insurance industrial complex, but no narrative film that really does the problem justice. What is the American equivalent of this film?

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This is currently streaming on Netflix in the UK (and possibly in the US as well?). I had to stretch it out over two nights, which somehow felt appropriate for this film. It's a bit of a slog, and intentionally so, in order to keep us in that same space with Lazarus Dante Remus, a name as saturated with symbolic allusion as Mr Lazarescu is with health problems. In our current pandemic crisis, where so many hospitals are overwhelmed with death, this might not have been the right time to watch the apparent failure of a socialized medical system. Interestingly, Netflix UK describes the film as this: "Amid a pandemic, an ailing man waits for his illness to overtake him as doctors try to pinpoint a diagnosis." I'm not sure that description fits the film at all.

On 5/13/2017 at 10:17 PM, Rob Z said:

What is the American equivalent of this film?

Probably John Q.

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