#42. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007)
Directed by: Cristian Mungiu
Written by: Cristian Mungiu
Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov
4 Months, 3 Week, and 2 Days was the first Romanian film I had ever seen, and it instantly turned me onto the largely ignored films from this part of Europe. Cristian Mungiu’s Palme d’Or winning film is one of the best and most powerful films of the 2000’s, and I’ve hesitated to recommend it to even the most seasoned film fanatics. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days follows Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabriela (or Gabita) (Laura Vasiliu) as they arrange for an illegal late-term abortion for Gabita in 1980’s Communist-led Romania. The women struggle to arrange for a hotel room where the abortion can be performed, and are forced to lie to the man performing the operation, Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), about how far along Gabita truly is. Things begin to go awry when Bebe threatens to walk out on them, and the women are forced to make great sacrifices in order to see it through. Once everything is all said and done, it is clear that the relationship between Otilia and Gabita will never be the same again. As you can probably tell by the brief synopsis, Mungiu’s film is not a playful one. It’s a deadly serious look at the sacrifices made by people in a desperate situation, and the lengths that citizens of a country must go to when they can no longer rely on aid from their own government. The historical setting and atmosphere of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is one of the best I’ve seen, with characters having to go the extra mile in order have such a significant operation performed. The film approaches the story from a very minimalist perspective, which furthers the atmosphere as we aren’t treated to conventional filmmaking techniques like grand establishing shots or tracking cameras through the streets. We’re confined almost entirely to an apartment building and a hotel room, both of which are dimly lighted and sparsely decorated. The performances by co-leads Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu are incredible, with Marinca playing Otilia, the supportive and incredibly helpful best friend who is pushed to the limits by the lies told to her by Gabita. Vasiliu’s Gabita is desperate for aid, but strong in that she’s willing to go the extra mile in order to get the treatment she believes she needs. Her internal struggle is clear throughout, as is the immense pain she is forced to feel during and after the abortion. Without these two powerful performances, all that would be left is a palpable atmosphere, and an affecting social commentary about Communist-era Romania. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is an extremely important film for its social commentary and progressive nature, but is one that should be approached with caution. This is absolutely not a film for everybody – but there’s absolutely no denying its inherent power. If Romanian cinema in general sounds interesting to you, I can recommend another Cristian Mungiu film, Beyond the Hills, which very narrowly missed my top 100 list. While that film is also very minimalist and deliberately paced, it has an incredibly powerful story and great performances, and is probably much more immediately accessible than 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.