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


Anamaria Marinca (Otilia), Laura Vasiliu (Gabita Dragut), Vlad Ivanov (Mr. Bebe). Screenplay by Christian Mungiu. Directed by Christian Mungiu. Rating: 18. Running time: 113 minutes.

If anyone had watched me watching 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, they would have observed a face expressing nothing but despair for the entirety of the film’s duration. Not for one second does the situation confronting us here ever look positive. To say it is bleak is an understatement. It’s an exhibit of life in Romania when that state was still behind the Iron Curtain. This means two things: there is no market, except for the black one; and, more significantly for the story, the country’s leader has banned abortion not on ethical grounds, but solely in an attempt to boost the birth rate. Add to this scarce resources for birth control, and every woman becomes a victim of their ruler’s abusive law. We get to see just one of its consequences.

The woman pregnant here, then, is a student, and she is such a hopeless emotional wreck that were it not for her roommate she has grown to share an intense friendship with, she would probably have ended up giving birth to the child she desperately cannot afford to. It is the latter the film focuses on. If there was room for humour here I’d say Otilia was an Almodóvar character, but you get my implication – she’s forced into becoming to all intents and purposes a matriarch, a woman so independent and responsible for so many things, that it’s a wonder she’s not the one dying from exhaustion, rather than her primitive abortion method-enduring friend. She collects money to fund it, sorts a hotel room, juggles a meeting with her boyfriend’s parents (and has a conversation with him so forward and important that it disturbs one to think most couples of all ages probably don’t even have it until the issues confront them directly), and, ultimately, she even instinctively makes a sacrifice for her friend that defies reason and can only be put down to intuitive care. It involves the demands of the abortionist himself, the mysterious Mr. Bebe. His motivations for acting the way he does are about as lucid as what drives Otilia to become Gabita’s slave.

If you haven’t thought about abortion properly before, or even if you’re not sure whether you have, there’s no doubt you will do by the end of this tale. That’s not to say it’s preachy. Any judgements you make will derive not from moral dialogue – of which there is none – but rather the brute facts and sights of the situation at hand. There’s an awfully strong feeling of realism here. Not only in what we get to see, but purely by virtue of the way 4 Months is shot. Some films, like pop-videos, give us more angles than we can count and never sit on one perspective for more than a second. Others, in search of a feeling not of an edited film being consciously made but moreso of a drama that could happen in reality, unfolding before our eyes, instead choose detached takes from the corner of the room, which remain still so long as the characters do. 4 Months – a Palme d’Or winner – is the latter type. You’ll do well to resist its achingly genuine humanity and quiet contemplation.

One Response to “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)”

  1. 1 The other thirteen (Part 2) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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