A gritty film on the right to choose

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A gritty film on the right to choose

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A pregnant Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) finds herself in the hands of an abortionist (Vlad Ivanov). [OutNow]

I went to my first encounter with Romanian cinema with unease. My immediate reaction when I heard that “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” won the Golden Palm at Cannes last year was that it must be boring. But a couple of friends had enthusiastically recommended this film.

“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” was written and directed by Christian Mungiu.

The film provides no historical context, save for “1987” in one of the opening scenes. Mungiu does not try to explain the context of 1987 Romania, but for your own edification, communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu ruled Romania from 1965 until he was overthrown and executed in 1989.

However, my ignorance of contemporary Romanian history was no problem, as I was able to understand the movie. Detailed history isn’t really the point of the film.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days starts off in silence. Then it shows two girls busily preparing for something urgent.

Much later, we finally find out what’s going on. Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), is helping her college roommate, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), get an abortion, which is illegal under Ceausescu.

Otilia desperately reserves a room in a hotel and meets an illegal abortionist, Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), on behalf of Gabita.

When Bebe finds out that Gabita has lied about how far gone she is in her pregnancy, he blackmails the girls for more money and worse. You will find yourself getting angry at Gabita, who doesn’t seem to want to take responsibility for any of her actions.

The main character in the film is actually Otilia, who shoulders the consequences of Gabita’s actions.

Mungiu’s handheld camera follows Otilia with long takes and no background music. Due to this filming style, you can practically count the number of scenes in this movie.

At times, I was confused as to whether I was watching a documentary or a film. The film’s aesthetics are grittily realistic. The actors are so natural, they don’t seem to be acting at all.

It was far from boring, and in fact thrilling beyond my expectations. For me, it was even scarier than zombie movies. It creates urgency, tension and unbearable fear, just from the camera following Otilia without making any moral judgment.

After watching the film, I googled Romanian history. Ironically, Romania now has one of the highest abortion rates in Europe. During Ceausescu’s rule, abortion was illegal for over 20 years.

This movie shows how humanity can be destroyed under an oppressive dictatorship.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Drama / Romanian / 107 min.

Directed by Christian Mungiu


By Choi Jung-in Contributing Writer [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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