4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

THE SCOOP
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Cast: Anamaria MarincaVlad Ivanov, Laura Vasiliu 
Plot: Drama about a woman who assists her friend to arrange an illegal abortion in 1980's Romania.

Genre: Drama
Awards: Won Palme d'Or (Cannes). Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - Best Foreign Language Film.
Runtime: 113min
Rating: M18 for disturbing scenes.

IN RETROSPECT
When Cristian Mungiu won the Palme d'Or for his powerful film on two women facing the trials and tribulations of having an illegal abortion in Communist Romania, it was a recognition of sorts to the richness of contemporary Eastern European cinema, and its potential to deliver hard-biting truths of a socio-political nature. Mungiu is now one of the brightest of shining lights in the festival circuit, with his latest film Beyond the Hills (2012) snagging Best Actress and Best Screenplay at Cannes.

Turning back the clock to 2007 in his personal breakthrough film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, we see a picture of remarkable intensity, yet imbued with a kind of rare humanism that makes it such a compelling visual text. I say visual text because Mungiu's use of the camera takes precedence over anything else. In this drama, the camera is the film's most important character - it is at once an observer, a voyeur, a follower, and a historical interpreter. I have rarely seen a filmmaker use the camera with such competence.

The setting in Romania in the late 1980s was stark. Mungiu captures the bleakness of that time with his camera. There is litter everywhere, roads are not well-paved, buildings are rusty and old, but the independent Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) is determined to help his friend Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) get an illegal abortion, no matter how risky the circumstances are. They do it in a dinghy hotel room with the paid help of a male stranger with the requisite tools and experience.

The entire sequence in the hotel room gives a queasy feeling, with Mungiu's camera always still, often in extraordinary long takes. The stillness of the camera is in stark contrast to that of the last act - a handheld long take that follows a character through dark alleys and corridors. Mungiu doesn't care about the lack of proper lighting, neither do we. By then, we are so immersed into the film that both character and setting transcend its raw visuals. Yet the audacity of the shot reminds us of Mungiu's prowess with the camera.

As far as abortion dramas go, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is one of the very best. It doesn't fall into the controversial trap of debating the pros and cons of abortion. It merely reveals the life-and-death situation of two women who desperately need one. The strength and courage shown by women in these situations have often been ignored. Mungiu gives us an intimate and powerful glimpse of one story. That is enough to make us look at the issue from a humanistic rather than ideological perspective.

Verdict: An intense and uncompromising Romanian drama about illegal abortion that draws power from its stark visuals and ultra-long takes. 

GRADE: A 

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Comments

daniel said…
One of my top 10 films of the decade. It's surprisingly tense especially during the party scene.
Eternality said…
I like how you feel so strongly about this film. It will be up for consideration when I update my Top 100 Favourite Films in February.
daniel said…
Downloaded and watched this film just a few months back. And I have Haneke's Amour as well :)
Eternality said…
I see. Catching AMOUR tomorrow on the big screen.
iedued said…
I am impressed about your interest, and really good input about this movie.
It would be difficult for a movie freak Romanian expat in Singapore not to notice your review.
Many people watching this movie fall in the trap of considering that it's an iconic story about communism.
It's great that you don't see it like this. It is an iconic movie about Romanian "realism new wave cinema". And Mungiu is not even the best from a list of directors, in my opinion.
This movie though - stars perfectly aligned! The point in time and space is just the setting, not the reason. The story itself brings the occasion for our feelings to react. All this, very well noticed in the review.
I loved your comment about "the camera" – character. A few important back stage facts to add about this, in case you are considering getting even more close to Romanian cinema.
Once more congrats for the article and the blog, I’ll try to…keep an IonU :)
Eternality said…
Hi, thank you for your comments. I am quite intrigued by Eastern European cinema. Have reviewed my fair share of Polish films, many of which I admired and enjoyed.

Mungiu is probably the only Romanian filmmaker that I know who is currently making films, or at least making a splash at festivals. I would like to hear your recommendations on other Romanian filmmakers and their films that you think I should take a look. Much appreciated for your time and kind advice.

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