Sometimes I am unsure exactly how films are marketed the way they are. I wind up questioning the marketing of the film, wondering why they chose to market it as such. And then I wind up questioning myself too, wondering if there was something I just missed along the way. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu was just one of those films for me, and I am still wrestling with it.
First, it should be noted that while I particularly did not enjoy this film, it has been on countless year end top ten lists and is praised by nearly everyone. The film runs at just under two and a half hours and teh enitire time focuses on the travels of Dante Remus Lazarescu in hopes of getting care in a hospital for ailments ranging from pain in his temples, to a sore stomach, to constant vomiting. This normally would not be the kind of movie to sit down with a bucket of popcorn to watch, but all over the dvd box there was mentions of dark comedy and how this was done with a "devil's sense of humor." So that is more or less what I went into the movie expecting.
Outside of the first 15 minutes, I don't think I laughed once, and it's not that I expect belly laughs. I can live with and do appreciate subtle humor. I just didn't find much humor, subtle or otherwise in the film. And while the performances in the film were convincing, it just was a chore to watch, and that was the bigger problem. Cristi Puiu directed this using a series of long takes with a hand held camera. Though that sounded interesting to me at the start, there was nearly no time where the camera was still. It was almost moving or at least shaking the entire time. This did give the film a feeling of immediency and almost a documentary feel, but it also was the first time that constant movement of the camera made me naseous. In fact the constant shaking of the camera only served to make me more aware of the camera and less in tune with the story that it was filming, which is unfortunate.
I'm not entirely sure what I expected coming into this film. When I saw dark comedy and hospital my mind immediately turned to Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom, though I guess I hoped that it would be done with a bit more heart than Von Trier shows his characters. Or maybe I was hoping for something minimalist like the films of the Dardenne brothers. Instead I wound up watching a film that was maybe 35 minutes too long, and with a directorial style that unfortunately to the focus away from what could have been a more interesting story.