Release Date: Jan. 23 (limited)
Director/writer: Cristian Mungiu
Cinematographer: Oleg Mutu
Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov
Studio/Running Time: IFC Films, 113 mins.
One of the central arguments for the legalization of abortion is that regardless of legality, abortions will happen. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days applies this line of thinking to the context of 1987 Romania where abortion had been banned 20 years previous. Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) spends a day of her life assisting her immature roommate Gabriela 'Gabita' Dragut (Laura Vasiliu) with the clandestine procedure, working through complications in the process but ultimately having a more difficult time dealing with the trauma of the event on a personal level.
Much of 4 months’ power comes from its sobriety. The film is shot simply, with handheld cameras almost always fixed in position. Most scenes consist of one shot without interruption or digression. Not only does this make for a striking contrast to normal cut rates in films, but more importantly, it’s indicative of how director Cristian Mungiu wishes to deal with such a delicate subject. Nothing is hidden, and there is no cutting away from the intensity of the situation at any time, which makes 4 Months painfully confrontational but also emotionally direct during every moment. In this bleak situation, the viewers are just as incapable of running from the film’s horrors as its heroines are.
Due to this ostensibly-simple-though-actually-quite-accomplished method of filmmaking, 4 Months is forced to rely on its actors and actresses' performances for strength. Fortunately, the characters in the film are universally moving, and Mungiu seems to have a knack for letting their emotions carry each scene to its appropriate climax. While Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), hired to perform the abortion, may hinder the women’s progress, in no point is he or anyone else villainized. Rather, his exasperation seems honest and human. There are no bad guys, the film seems to say, only bad situations. This faith in the world is both honest and heartbreaking considering the womens’ situation, but most importantly, it has more than a bit of truth to it.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days does not blaze trails stylistically, choosing instead to operate within a type of verite realism defined by the likes of the Dardenne brothers, Alfonso Cuarón and Romania's own The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. It is also not the first film to deal maturely with abortion, though unfortunately, these instances are quite infrequent. What it does do, though, is fuse these two aspects together to create a cinematic experience like none other. While other films may be just as engaging due to wit or sheer spectacle, few have ever been as affecting on an emotional level.
To read the Film Clips piece from issue 39 featuring an interview with director Cristian Mungiu, click here.