December 2, 2006 -- “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (Moartea domnului Lazarescu) is an ultra low-budget Romanian film about the horrors of an indifferent health care system. I saw this movie on DVD and there is an extra feature on it explaining why what happened to Mr. Lazarescu in Bucharest, Romania couldn't possibly happen in the United States. Balderdash, it certainly could happen here, and it is getting more likely to all the time since the health care industry successfully defeated the last of the serious industry reforms back in the mid 1990s. The movie was shot with video equipment in a documentary style. There are not a lot of cuts. The story unfolds in what seems to be real time.
Mr. Lazarescu (played by Ion Fiscuteanu) is a lonely old man who lives alone in an apartment complex. He doesn't feel well, so he calls an ambulance. He waits a long time for the ambulance, meanwhile, the neighbors stop by to see how he is. All of them blame his drinking for the problem. Mr. Lazarescu (the name is similar to Lazarus, who was raised from the dead in a Bible story) had an ulcer operation years before, and he thinks that might be causing his nausea and headaches. Various medicines and folk remedies are offered and tried. Still he waits. At last, an emergency medical technician arrives and does some tests. She thinks he needs more tests and he is taken to the hospital. Mr. Lazarescu's sister is called and she will travel to town to be with him the next day.
There has been a bus accident in town and the hospitals are packed with emergency patients. Nobody has time to look at Mr. Lazarescu, but everyone comments he smells bad and has been drinking. He is shuttled off to another hospital. By this time Mr. Lazarescu is incoherent. He talks, but makes no sense. Something is very wrong. He finally gets some CAT scans and a diagnosis. He has a several serious problems and needs immediate emergency surgery, but the doctors at the hospital are unable to operate on him immediately, so he is sent to a third hospital. Here, he is refused treatment because he is unable to sign the consent form and there is no relative to sign for him.
All the while nurses are arguing with doctors, ambulance medics are arguing with nurses and administrators and everyone is gossiping. In one scene, Mr. Lazarescu asks for water. The ambulance medic ignores him. She gets water for herself, but offers him none. Mr. Lazarescu is humiliated, ignored and patronized. The doctors and nurses are much more interested in their own problems and petty disputes than in Mr. Lazarescu's condition. Only one person, the original medic who attended to him and gave him no water, seems to be concerned about his condition. She lobbies on his behalf for an operation, but is ignored or scorned for meddling in the exclusive domain of doctors. This is a very chilling, effective movie about man's inhumanity to man and the problems with modern health care. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.