4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) – Cristian Mungiu (Harriet Birch)

Drama about a woman who assists her friend to arrange an illegal abortion in 1980’s Romania.

4months

This film won awards at the Cannes film festival in 2007. I came across it by accident a few years ago, but its a really surprising film. And I am going to start by saying that I don’t love it. And before you readers out there pounce on me and do creative things to my face with staple guns, let me explain. I love films. But I don’t love this one. Because loving such a film is impossible. You can be shocked by it. You can learn something from it. But you can’t love it.

Set in Romania in 1987 during the last years of the repressive Ceasecu regime, the film is about two university friends: Otilia and Gabita. When Gabita becomes pregnant, Otilia must secure an abortion for her as at that time abortion was illegal in Romania. See? it’s not the sort of film that you will willingly return to over and over again. The production values are very low. Shaky camera is persistent. But during some scenes, such as the ones that take place in the hotel or at the university, it makes you feel very shut in; perhaps to emulate the claustrophobia the characters are feeling in the scenes.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - Anamaria Marinca Side Face Closeup
Foreign films have the ability to bring out a completely new level of existence in their audiences. Not for the casual viewer, they are often made on smaller budgets with fewer locations and even fewer special effects, if any. Despite this, they have the unnerving quality of making us feel a maelstrom of emotions. This film is no exception. The shaky camera and the over-loud, unpolished audio pulls you in and puts you in the scene. From the loud crackling of a plastic tablecloth to the tense scene at the hotel desk where we feel the same nervous, stressed feeling as Otilia tries and fails to confirm a hotel booking with a bored, tired receptionist.
But foreign films aren’t for everyone. Long scenes with no change in camera angle; often containing conversations that lead nowhere or which have no logical point to them. I can see why people may rather prefer something by the likes of Scorsese or Tarantino. And as for the cast in this thick soup of a film, prior to me watching the movie I had never heard of any of them. Obviously they would be famous in their native Romania. Even if they weren’t, that would make it all the better because to be able to portray role of key characters in this dark little tale. Vlad Ivanov, who plays Mr Bebe the abortionist, has the ability in the role to look like a guy you really couldn’t trust and who would manipulate you to meet his own ends. He also looks like a guy who lives in his parents’ basement. But that’s something else entirely.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - Anamaria Marinca Smiling With Friends
If you have been tempted (ha!) to watch this film due to my review (of a sort) then don’t expect anything fancy. Its gritty and slightly filthy. But the unresolved ending could lead viewers to formulate their own ideas as to how the story continues beyond the film. That brief moment of breaking the fourth wall is both chilling and ends the viewer’s foray into the dark existence that was Communist Romania under Nicolae Ceasecu.
MY RATING: 4 / 5
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5 Comments Add yours

  1. CMrok93 says:

    This movie still disturbs me to this day, even though it’s been practically two years since the last time I saw it. Maybe that was the point, or wasn’t, but either way, it stuck with me and that’s always something worth noting. Good review.

  2. beetleypete says:

    It is true to say that it is hard to like this film. The subject is harrowing, but as film-making, it is simply marvellous, and rightly featured here, in your excellent review. I posted a very short review of this film on my own blog, almost exactly a year ago. Here is a link, if you are interested. http://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/some-east-european-films/
    Great stuff Harriet, and well done for getting it out to the readership. Regards, Pete.

  3. Divya says:

    I just squeezed in this one to the list of ‘movies to watch this weekend’ entirely based on IMDB and your rating. I had not gone through your review entirely. I read your review after watching the movie and I totally agree – you cannot love the movie !! I sit totally aghast at this point. Hate Bebe – such a cheapster !! And luuv Otilia..she was brave and such a savior.

  4. Divya says:

    Are you on instagram? Gonna refer to your review on my instagram, if thats ok ??!!

  5. I know that the subject matter and its presentation may be difficult for most to stomach, but the craftsmanship is undeniable. It’s that static versus handheld contrast that injects the film with so much tension. The uneasiest scenes to watch are the ones where Mungiu situates the camera at one fixed spot and refuses to budge. The suspense coils up your spine and around your neck, and as the scene unfurls with nary a cut–none of the catharsis that a high average cut per minute provides–you can’t help but feel complicit in everything happening to these girls. You so badly want to break the fourth wall and save them from their plight. Other than the hotel scene, the best use of the long static shot is when the protagonist arrives to her boyfriend’s house for family dinner and has to sit there and take all the narrow-minded shit all these pseudo-intellectuals shovel her way. You can practically feel her muscles go rigid the longer the scene lasts. Just as she tightens up so do you. because only you two know how silly and inconsequential–how terribly informed–the “convivial” proceedings are.

    I don’t know–I definitely DO love this movie. It’s nearly perfect in its construction top to bottom, not even to mention the brilliant reverse usage of Chekhov’s gun. She steals the knife in the first act, and then never uses it again. The man forgets his ID at the concierge’s desk, but never returns to reclaim it. Once again, it’s the lack of catharsis that strikes us most, that chokes us most. Because all these threads continue to hang loose by the time the protagonist leaves to dispose the fetus, we can’t help but think someone will pop out of the shadows and maul our girl. It’s perfect. We feel how it must have felt living through that terrible regime. But thankfully, as Munjiu makes it abundantly clear by the film’s final shot, which ostensibly, and imperceptibly, shifts back to extricate us from the restaurant and beyond the window by which they sit, this is only a movie. We only had to deal with it for some two-hours. This was their lives–or what used to be their lives. Now they sit there, silent, divided from us, divided from each other, already on their long journey of repressing the night.

    Brilliant film. One of my favorites.

    But yeah, of course, it’s not a FUN movie–but I love it all the same. Munjiu created a modern masterpiece with this film.

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