4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days

"Essential"

4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days Review


Confirming that Romanian cinema has become a true force to be reckoned with, Cristian Mungiu follows in the steps of Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Corneliu Porumboiu's 12:08 East of Bucharest with his devastating look at one day in the lives of two unfortunate college girls in the waning years of Communist Romania, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

Only two years before a coup effectively ended his Communist regime (and subsequently sent him to the gallows), President Nicolae Ceausescu's Romania was a sort of lugubrious police state, as unforgiving and cold as the country's winters. Into one of these bitter winter days walks Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), a polytechnics major making her way over to visit her boyfriend after heading over to a hotel to check on a reservation. When asked why she needs a room when she lives in a dormitory, she explains that it's too crowded and noisy to get any studying done. The truth is far grimmer: Her roommate Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) is pregnant and has arranged to have an abortion, an illegal procedure under Ceausescu's rule.

The black market is an installation in Ceausescu's Romania. An early scene shows Otilia buying soap and Tic-Tacs from her RA's room and, later, she hunts down Kent cigarettes from a man loitering in a hotel lobby. When Otilia meets with Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), the man who will facilitate the operation, there is a sense of sleaze and propriety commingling. That she ultimately has to use her body as a bargaining chip would seem decrepit elsewhere, but here it becomes an expected tool of the trade.

Otilia makes her way to her boyfriend's mother's birthday party as Gabita lays and waits for Bebe to finish his work. In a shot that wouldn't be out of place in Lake of Fire, Otilia returns to find the aborted fetus on the bathroom floor; Gabita has left the charge of disposing of it to her friend. Otilia and Gabita's final meeting, at the hotel's small restaurant, has the feeling, and the look, of a funeral, and Gabita, a little girl in a big, cruel world, doesn't even have the sense to order Otilia something to eat.

Ostensibly a set of moral negotiations woven into an exceptional thriller, 4 Months often builds tension out of nothing more than simple requests and questions. In Mungiu and cinematographer Oleg Mutu's vision, Ceausescu's Romania is a rusted rain gutter where anything worth having must be bargained for with a stranger who usually wants much more than what they put on. Every character, from Otilia's devoted but naïve boyfriend to the hotel desk clerks, has the disposition that even the slightest misstep could cause unimaginable dread. For all the good deeds Otilia attempts to commit, she is punished constantly, often by the very person she is trying to help.

Made up primarily of hot-button issues, 4 Months has neither time nor concern for clinical idealism and consequently avoids being cast as allegory. Though inherently feminist, any clear agenda or message is buried by Mungiu's gloomy décor and the organic performances of his three main actors. Marinca's staggering performance contorts so naturally to the cruelty of the time, and Ivanov so perfectly embodies the ghoul supreme Bebe. A surrogate mother hen to Vasiliu's petrified Gabita, Otilia hasn't given up on the humanity that her country has so quickly discarded; a distraught heartbeat in Mungiu's unnamed city of ghosts.

Unwanted pregnancies, at least in America, were the basis of two of last year's most successful comedies (Juno, Knocked Up) not to mention Tony Kaye's previously-mentioned monument to the battle over birth rights, Lake of Fire. Where the comedies skirted the issue, and Kaye constructed a frame around it, 4 Months boldly concludes that the issue is subordinate to the situation. At every step where an ideological standpoint could be ballyhooed, Mungiu casts his gaze back to the wounded Otilia and her scared Gabita.

Mutu, an inarguable talent, worked on both this film and Lazarescu but the films share more than a cinematographer: they are both imitations of life, only equaled in their realistic aesthetic by their utterly horrific visage of numbed humanity. The American mindset is that we can deny these horrors and have a laugh until one side wins over the other. In Mungiu's Romania, however, it seems like a laugh would be tantamount to spitting on a grave.

Aka 4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile.

Romania: What a country!



4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days

Facts and Figures

Run time: 113 mins

In Theaters: Friday 14th September 2007

Box Office USA: $0.9M

Box Office Worldwide: $1.2M

Budget: $852.5 thousand

Distributed by: IFC First Take

Production compaines: Saga Film, Concorde Filmverleih

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 128 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Producer: Cristian Mungiu, Oleg Mutu, Daniel Burlac

Starring: as Otilia, Laura Vasiliu as Gabita, Vlad Ivanov as Domnu' Bebe, Alexandru Potocean as Adi, Luminita Gheorghiu as Doamna Radu, Adi Carauleanu as Dr. Radu, Liliana Mocanu as Unireal Hotel receptionist, Doru Ana as Benzanirul, Ion Sapdaru as Dr. Rusu, Cerasela Iosifescu as Receptionist Tineretului

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