Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

"The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" is the title of one of the best Romanian films to be released in the last few years. If you have a chance to see it, please do. We're not the only ones to think so highly of it. The judges at Cannes awarded it the "Un Certain Regard" prize in 2005. The film chronicles the experience of the ailing Mr. Lazarescu who is shuffled from hospital to hospital in a tragi-comic web of bureaucratic red-tape and indifferent doctors, as his life is slowly draining away.

Walking back from a tasty meal at a great (and possibly the only) Mexican restaurant in Bucharest, we got the opportunity to channel the sense of righteous indignation the film had left us with. Lying behind this blue metal kiosk by the side of the road was an incoherent older man, likely very intoxicated, wearing very few clothes in the cold October weather. Conveniently, there was a hospital about 50 yards away, so we asked for help but were told that they didn't take "that kind of patient" there. While the security guards were quick to tell us no, one of them still seemed to want to help. He told us that if we called the ambulance, they would be obligated to pick our guy up, but they wouldn't be happy about it. This was confirmed when Sorinescu called 961--the ambulance or "salvarea." To their credit, they arrived within 15 minutes, and lifted the incoherent man off the sidewalk onto a stretcher. However, they weren't sure how much luck they'd have getting a hospital to admit him. The neighbors informed us, after the ambulance left, that the man had been living in the kiosk all summer. They also told us that someone had called the salvare the night before too, but that the man had refused to go.

Every day since, we've been walking past the kiosk to see if "cetateanul turmentat" (the drunken citizen) is back home. We haven't seen him, though, and we wonder if the hospital--in the event they admitted him--was able to revive him. Did he make it out? Did someone put him somewhere warmer? Or did he get shuffled around like Mr. Lazarescu, no one caring who he was or who might miss him?