During the summer of 1937, Emanuel, a young man in his early twenties, is committed to a sanatorium on the Black Sea coast for treatment of his bone tuberculosis.
The treatment consists of painful spine punctures that confine him to a body cast on a stretcher-bed. Little by little, as Emanuel gets accustomed to the limitations of his new life, he discovers that inside the sanatorium there is still a life to be lived to the fullest. He makes friends and engages in conversations, political for the most part.
He reads, he writes, he smokes and drinks, interacts with doctors, nurses and stretcher-bearers. He observes how healing seems to happen transiently, following mysterious laws: some patients get better, some worse, others die.
He even has a romantic relationship, while Romania outside the sanatorium doesn't have much to offer him, turning more and more into an extreme right- wing society... Radu Jude's fourth feature film has won acclaim on the world film festival circuit since its premiere in Locarno last year notably for its frank approach (reflecting that of the film's subject, the writer Max Blecher) to illness and death.
Despite the subject matter, the film is anything but a downer, depicting both the absurdist humor of the protagonist's situation and the zest with which he and his compatriots embrace life, limited though it may be.