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