The Death of Mr Lazarescu Starring: Ion Fiscuteanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Doru Ana, Monica Barladeanu Director: Cristi Puiu The film: The video release of The Death of Mr Lazarescu couldn't be more timely. With Romania's impending accession to the European Union on January 1, Cristi Puiu's treatise of how the country's health-care system fails its citizens reveals much about the pitfalls of Romanian society 17 years after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime. It would, however, be remise to see Puiu's film as dealing merely with a Romanian problem: these trials are universal, and this is a tale that could easily have been in Baltimore as in Bucharest. With the film unravelling largely in fluorescent-lit hospital corridors and operation theatres, it's easy to dub The Death of Mr Lazarescu as Romania's answer to ER. But there's hardly any urgency in the emergency rooms and those initials could well stand for 'Evading Responsibilities' instead. Shot in jarring cinema verite style, viewers are told the heart-wrenching tale of Dante Remus Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu, below). His initial breakdown at home seemed far from fatal; a heavy drinker who disregards his cancer-stricken condition, he's conscious enough when the ambulance - and the nurse in it, Mioara (Luminita Gheorghiu), who prove to be Lazarescu's only ally through the night - finally arrives (after a painfully long wait) and transports him to his first hospital. From a variety of reasons his health deteriorates sharply, as doctor after doctor turn him away from their care, some deeming the smelly old drunkard as bringing the trouble on himself, while others dither because of more urgent matters (the influx of victims from a bus crash) or less urgent ones (one doctor is more troubled by the dead battery of his mobile phone than Lazarescu's condition). The extras: A 45-minute interview with Puiu reveals the film's genesis - the director was once a hypochondriac who encountered similar problems in state hospitals - and the work's place in his upcoming Rohmer-inspired omnibus (six films about love and compassion between human beings, set in suburban Bucharest). Also of interest is Fred Berlin's short reflection of how this piece relates to the American health-care system: rather than dismissing the on-screen trauma as simply a problem of a post-communist state, Berlin dissects western medical methodology (the triage, for example) as harbouring equal potential in failing its patients, with many poorer people falling through the cracks. Ultimately, it's about the wearing down of compassion, he says: it's not about the lack of resources, but that people are too 'wrapped up in their daily, mundane problems' to help those in genuine need. The verdict: A moving indictment of human indifference that renders redundant every hospital drama produced in recent years.