Friday, June 13, 2008

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

I'm missing Bonnaroo for the first time since 2002 so I'm going to fill my disappointment with as many films as possible this weekend.

4 Weeks, 3 Months, and 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, 2008) [9]
Romanian cinema is certainly on a roll of late in terms of art film circles. 4m3W2D is another gritty, dark social drama, a la The Death of Mr. Lazerescu, and it's a supremely made, taut film that deserves much of the praise it's been given. It's not really a film about abortion however; in fact, there are some lapses in logic in the central story that would be glaring if the film wasn't so well made. It's more of a parable of living in the dying days of communist rule in Romania, full of paranoia and the grim struggle that was life. Mungiu focuses on two roommates, one named Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) that needs an abortion, which is illegal and her roomate, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), who helps her with all the logistical details. Where Mungiu twists it a bit is that he spends his focus on Otilia, who ends up doing all the hard work for Gabita, who has neither thought out or has the will to do anything for herself. It's this focus on Otilia that keeps the film out of a hot-button argument about abortion and instead makes it more of a parable of living under a certain regime and time. The film follows Otilia as she helps rectify Gabita's bone-headed decisions, from meeting the smarmy and arrogant abortionist (Vlad Ivanov) to finding a hotel room after Gabita screws up her first attempt. The film clearly sympathizes with Otilia as she sacrifices herself for her friend. Mungiu expertly executes the tension surrounding the scenario without cheapening the mood of the film. The best example of this is when Otilia has to leave Gabita alone to visit her boyfriend and her parents. Those scenes speak most about the film and who Otilia is, not the issue of abortion itself. The scene of a long take of Otilia at the dinner table, washed in a sea of people who she has nothing in common with is a powerful moment of cinema, even if I'm not sure how it fits exactly. Mungiu deftly creates emotions out of the picture, the empathy we feel for the women, creating moments of tension when there really is no threat, and most of all, creating a look and feel of the film that shows the dreary, beaten down existence under the crumbling Ceausescu regime. It's such of film of assured craftsmanship and emotional connection that it's no wonder it has gotten the praise it deserves.

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