My second attempt to discover and examine Romanian cinema was the Cannes Palme D'Or winner, 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days. I was extremely surprised, in a very good way, of the quality of the film, from all points of view: direction, cinematography, acting, script and so on. Set in 1987, the prime time of Communism in Romania, we witness a day in the life of two young women: one about to have an abortion, and one helping her with this delicate situation, meanwhile trying to survive her own demons.
First things first, the script was quite outstanding. Seemingly simple and static at times, it simmers in emotion, fear and uneasiness. We see the life of two young women ruined within a day, and mostly because of a heartless man, a merciless creature who only cares about money and his own safety. For me, this was one of the scariest and dangerous types of villain I have ever seen, although he technically didn't kill anyone, or shoot/strangle someone directly. His insensitive behaviour towards the girls was evil enough to qualify him as an villain in my eyes. I was also stunned about certain script decisions I did not see coming: I don't think I have ever been so surprised by a change in story like the moment they went from fighting over money to taking their clothes off, or the fact that Mungiu or the script meant to show us the detail in the bathroom at the end.
Filmmaking wise, I absolutely loved it. I could literally write paragraphs after paragraphs about Mungiu's directing style and favorite scenes. For example, I liked the constant moving of the camera, but choosing the right moments to stop it and let the subject move away, or the way he puts the camera on the counter in the hotel, or how he stills the camera for minutes while a whole conversation is happening. His style reminds me a lot of Steve McQueen and I love the former, so Mungiu just reached the top 3 current directors list for me. I can't wait to see Beyond the hills next week. The cinematography was beautiful and it was interesting to see how he used dark or very dark tones for some scenes. As for music, there was no soundtrack, but I didn't need it, the normal background noises were loud enough to compensate for the lack of music.
Another thing I have to mention, because I thought it was brilliantly executed and helped me appeal and understand the whole situation better, was the realistic feel of the feature. Mungiu absolutely got it right-most of you probably don't realise, but everything in this film delivers a Romania in the communism era- from the way they talked, to the cars and buses, to the interior designing, everything. It's weird, but also nostalgic and appealing to most nationals, including me. Starting with the first shot: all the little, seemingly unimportant, but spot on, Romanian things, like Doina, the usual make up remover/face cream/mask for women those days, the blanket on the bed with the standard model, the ASOS cigarettes, or the soup in the container. Moreover, the conversation between the adults at the table near the end is EXACTLY what happens in a normal Romanian dinner party. Speaking of this particular scene, I also liked it because we could see the decay of the girls' state of mind, the sadness in her eyes, the worrying for Gabita and everything else crowding her mind, all whilst the adults were talking about food and children.
Another strong point was, of course, the casting. Although it features very few actors, they do their job wonderfully, all delivering awards worthy performances, especially Anamaria Marinca, playing Otilia, the much more open and daring friend, who does all the "dirty" work for her friend. She shines throughout the film, because we see the biggest change in her actions and feelings: she is, at the beginning, the no-bullshit, let's get things over, type of girl, but by the end, she is more vulnerable and sad than Gabita, the woman having the abortion, will ever be. I also have to mention Vlad Ivanov, who played Bebe, the ruthless man performing the "medical" act, who gave a standout and quite chilling performance.
As I think I said in my previous instalment, Romanian filmmakers are good at dramatic features...so good, that they very rarely stray out of tragedy or drama genres, and when they do venture into comedy, it's not always pleasant. 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days is one of the best dramas I have ever seen, in national or international cinema and I am very proud because of it. It's just sad it took me so long to see it.
I urge you to watch it, even if you're afraid of foreign movies. This one is worth the trip, especially if you appreciate and love outstanding films.I am very curious to find out what you thought of it, if you have seen it! What was your take on the story, the direction, the sets and vibe of the film? Please share your thoughts or link me to your review, if you've written one!