Connecting Modern Medicine with Medieval Humanism: Watching Cristi Puiu’s “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” through the Lens of Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy”
Modern curricula often constrain the breadth of experience for medical students today by restricting their focus to science and technology. However, to connect more fully with their patients as individuals, medical students must learn to encompass a humanistic view of this challenging field often considered both a science and an art. The medium of film, particularly films outside the students’ typical exposure, provides one avenue for medical educators to achieve this breadth. By balancing the familiarity of medical scenarios with a distance from cognitive dissonance, foreign films allows students to glimpse the human condition unfettered by expectations—as in the 2005 award-winning Romanian film “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (“Marta Dominique Lazarescu”). In this realistic film, director Cristi Piuli follows an ailing pensioner, Dante Rebus Lazarescu, in his ambulance shuttle from emergency room to emergency room in modern Bucharest. Overworked physicians readily attribute his symptoms to his confessed drinking. Only the emergency medical technician shows any respect for Lazarescu the person. In essence, she parallels Virgil in guiding Dante Alighieri through his Medieval allegory of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in “The Divine Comedy” (“La Divina Commedia”). Viewing Puiu’s film through Dante’s allegorical lens, students can broaden their perspective on medicine.
Keywords: Allegory, Death of Mr. Lazarescu, The (Film), Puiu, Cristi, Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321, Divine Comedy, Humanities—study & Teaching, Medical Education
Dr. Robert J. Bonk
Associate Professor of Professional Writing, Humanities Division,