Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (2007, Dir: Cristian Mungiu)

Had I seen this before I had published my Top 10 of 2007 list (find it here) I probably would have placed in at #3. It's a marvelously tense film with some expert use of suspense and atmosphere, and one of the best thrillers in ages.

The film's story is relatively straightforward. During the Ceasescu regime in Romania in the 1980s, a college student, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), and her roommate/best friend, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), try to organize an illegal abortion. A lack of foresight by all and Gabita's selfish and stupid behavior lead to an increasingly fraught situation that irrevocably damages both Otilia's relationship with her boyfriend Adi (Alexandru Potocean). After hiring a vicious male abortionist, Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) for financial reasons, things get pretty heavy.

The director, Cristian Mungiu, has said that this film will be the first of a trilogy about the Ceasescu regime - I can't wait for the next two installments. He's shown amazing skill at manipulating mood here, and the fact that this was disqualified from the Oscar shortlist for Best Foreign Film last year is a joke. The script is flawless, and one of the best of '07. The editing is powerful and considerably adds to the tense mood - one abrupt cut to a shot of two trains moving in opposite directions is a corker, and there's one truly amazing scene - a dinner party at Adi's parents house (the mother is played to perfection by Romanian screen goddess Luminita Gheorghiu) is almost unbearably wrenching.

The acting is a mixed bag. Anamaria Marinca is stupendous as Otilia, who very nearly martyrs herself for the ungrateful Gabita's cause. Her high point is a fantastic study of nuance, shot in profile, as she discreetly berates Gabita for her lack of foresight after the abortionist leaves. Vlad Ivanov plays a vile character as repulsively as he can, but something about his playing struck me as fake. Vasiliu doesn't have much to do, but she doesn't show too much creativity with the lines she does have.


The one part of the film that really left me cold was the ending. It was clear to me about two-thirds of the way through that the director was having a hard time finding a way to end the film, and the "Let's never talk about this" conclusion felt too glib and predictable by half.

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