4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007)
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Writer: Cristian Mungiu
Actors: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov
My first ever experience with Romanian films and a very positive one at that thankfully. A very unconventional film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days follows a girl trying to help her roommate get an illegal abortion in 1980's Romania. The film tries to capture the full experience of the task at hand and manages to give the viewers a true roller coaster of emotions. Director Cristian Mungiu really managed to create an incredible story out of just one day. I am really happy I decided to watch this film because it gave me a new director to follow. Hopefully, I will watch his other films and see how they stack up. Now however, let me get into the review of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.
For me the greatest aspect of this film is the way the director managed to bring the viewer in and make them actually feel what the characters are feeling. He does this with such incredible technique that I rarely see it being achieved in many films. For example, when Otilia and Gabita are negotiating with Mr. Bebe, they are very nervous and want to do whatever they can to get him to agree. Similarly we are nervous as well due to the way the scene is set up. The argument in the film is drawn out to such an extent that the viewer at home is nervously awaiting the outcome. Furthermore, when Mr. Bebe is taking his "dues" with Otilia and Gabita is waiting in the bathroom distressed, we at home are distressed as well as to what it takes to have such a task done. Finally, one of my favorite scenes from the film was the dinner scene with Adi's family. At first, when I was watching, I kept on thinking "why is this taking so long". The whole scene goes on for 7 full minutes with no cuts or anything. The scene does not really forward the plot in any way. But then, I had an "aha" moment and I understood what this scene was meant for. The director is using this scene in order to make the audience feel what the character is feeling. As we are watching this boring scene of old Romanian couples talking about nonsense, we at home just want the scene to be over and get on with the movie. However, if you think about it, that's what Otilia is feeling too! She is just waiting for this stupid dinner to be over so that she can leave and go aid Gabita at this time of need. The film brilliantly uses the idea of boredom to connect with the character. To be completely honest I have never experienced this in a film before, I have once while reading a book and it blew my mind after realizing what was happening. So this is why I believe this scene is the most important one in the film. It manages to show us how the director is using the film to connect the audience with the character. That in my opinion, is the greatest strength of this film.
Now I want to talk about the acting along with the cinematography. The actress who played Otilia really did an incredible job. I was so surprised by her raw performance and how she made us believe she was this poor student doing whatever she can to help out her friend. It amazed me that she was able to keep her focus even with the extremely long takes such as the 7 minute family dinner scene. That is hard to do even if you are an experienced actor. And from her filmography we can see that this was one of her first major roles, which is incredible if you think about it. As I explained, she was able to maintain her focus and composure even during long takes, which leads me to talk about the camera work of the film. The director relied heavily on long takes without moving the camera a lot. For example, sometimes when the conversation is between multiple people he would still focus on one character for a long period of time. I really enjoyed the director's method when it comes to shooting this film. It felt more personal for some reason. When there was motion and we are moving with the characters he did not use a steady camera, it was more shaky. It gave us a feeling that we were following the characters ourselves. Yet when they were stationary and having conversations the camera as well was stationary. It gave the feeling of us being in there with them sitting and observing. Overall I really enjoyed the technical aspects of the film, and can't really think of anything that needed drastic changing.
All in all the film was a real surprise for me. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. However, this movie is not really for anybody. I wouldn't recommend it to people who are going to have sensitive opinions on abortions. Furthermore, some people may find the film a bit dull due to the constant prolonged shots and lengthy conversations. Nevertheless, for me the film worked due to these elements. Which is why I hope in the future I will be able to follow the works of Cristian Mungiu a bit more and see what else he has offered to the world of cinema.