4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days ****
Directed by Cristian Mungiu
Written by Cristian Mungiu
Anamaria Marinca as Otilia
Laura Vasiliu as Gabita
Vlad Ivanov as Domnu' Bebe
Alexandru Potocean as Adi
113 Minutes(Not Yet Rated)
There was one reason that I was hesitant to see Cristian Mungiu's new film "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days," but there was also one reason why I made sure I had a ticket for it when I made my orders. The reason I was hesitant is quite ironic, because I was hesitant because this film won the top prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival-the prestigious Golden Palm. Why would I be uncertain about seeing a film that won such a big award, you may ask? Well, looking back at the last four films to win the award, I wasn't very big on any of them. In 2003, Gus van Sant won with "Elephant." I quite hate that movie. In 2004, "Fahrenheit 9/11" Not another favorite. Then in 2005, we have "L'Enfant," which I found slow and tedious, and then 2006 "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," a good movie, don't get me wrong, but other films on the selection were much richer and more deserving-"Babel," 'Pan's Labyrinth," "Volver" or "Red Road" to name a few. The reason why I was stoked about seeing it was because this is a Romanian film, and while that seems like a minor reason to be excited, Romania is part of a New Wave of their films, and in the last year I have seen masterpieces like "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," and "12:08 East of Bucharest," as well as "California Dreamin'" which I saw in Toronto. So a Romanian film wins the Golden Palm.
What are the results?
This film is done in the standard way that I've seen these Romanian films. Handheld cameras, long takes, actual acting, little or no music except for the credits, or whatever is playing in the background. We start right in the middle of the action, in the dorm room of Otilia and Gabita in 1987 Romania. It is a tough time in Romania-everything is monitored, bought or sold under the table, ID's are used for everything. That is why it is tough for the two girls to get away with what they are planning. Otilia is helping her friend get an abortion, a process that is difficult under the circumstances, and with the help of Bebe, they end up getting a hotel room and try to get the process done, safe and sound.
Even though Gabita is the one getting the operation done, and you would think that she would be the person we follow, this is the entire opposite. For one thing, this is not a film about abortion-that is just one of the plot devices used to move this character study forward, similar to the great 2004 film "Vera Drake." And the main character is Otilia, who we follow from the very first second up until the very end, when she gives a quite haunting and memorable look at the camera. Otilia is played by an actress named Anamaria Marinca who is so good that you are compelled to the screen while she walks down a street. This is a piece with several different topics and themes going on, but its always Otilia's story. There is Otilia's story with her friend, and the vast extent that she goes to make sure that Gabita ends up alright-and she goes several levels to make sure this is possible. There is Otilia's story with her boyfriend, Adi, who wants her to meet his family. And then we have a political piece about why Otilia is forced to go the extreme when it should be quite simple. Anamaria Marinca does her job so naturally, as does the camera and the environment, to make this quite a realistic story, something that I've seen at least in "Lazarescu" and "12:08," not so much 'California Dreamin'," even though that film does realism in a different way.
Looking at the other nominations from Cannes, I've only seen a handful of them-'Death Proof," "Import/Export," "The Man from London," "No Country for Old Men," "Persepolis," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," and 'Zodiac," with a few coming up that I'll get to see, but its obvious that Cristian Mungiu deserved his award. He had crafted a quite compelling, deep, and realistically made film, just continuing to prove that Romania is the country to watch as far as international cinema is concerned-and everything I have the chance to see a film from that country from now on-no matter what awards it has won-I will be first in line.
IFC has their hands on this one, like they did "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," and they should be releasing it early next year, although I don't know why they are waiting.