Cristian Mungiu’s Palme D’Or winning film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a subtly effective experiment. It takes it’s time, and while some will undoubtedly be unimpressed and bored by it, in my eyes it is a riveting, shocking movie.
It is set in Romania in 1987, during the horrible reign of Ceausescu, and a woman, Gabita, is stuck with a pregnancy she does not need or want. She desperately seeks help, and needs an abortion, which of course, was illegal at that time. She hires an abortionist to secretly carry out the procedure in private in a hotel room, and asks her friend to help her.
The film may sound like it belongs to Gabita, but really, this is her friend Otilia’s movie. It is told from her perspective, as the tension builds and the pace slows. It’s not a particularly enjoyable film, in the sense of the world. You will not leave the theatre feeling warm and cosy, or triumphant and happy, or even in good spirits at all. No. Rather, quite the opposite. This has the potential to be an incredibly depressing film, and Mungiu made the right choice in making it so.
I love independent cinema ten times more than I love big budget box office movies, which is another part of 4 Months that makes it so attractive to me. Independent films have more of a tendency to stick toward static camera shots, which is exactly what Mungiu does here. The camera is still for so long that it almost becomes unbearable. In the incredibly long hotel room sequence, we listen as the abortionist explains the procedure, scathingly and without compassion. And the camera never moves. He is a glaring presence, and Gabita can barely even talk when he strongly asks her questions.
The most notable use of the static camera is definitely in the dinner scene. Otilia has been invited by her boyfriend to a dinner party with his family, and at the worst possible time. She cannot wait to get out of there, and there is one stunningly long shot which shows her sitting at the table while a whole group of people crowd around, completely ignoring her and chatting incessantly. She looks as if she is about to snap and punch one of them in the face. This is definitely one of the best uses of tension in a scene to raise emotion.
There is a lot of arguing in this movie. The abortionist, Mr. Bebe, argues repeatedly and annoyingly with our two protagonists, because they cannot follow his simple commands. He is a driving, glaring force, and yet, what Mungiu does is strange… half way through the film, after he has inserted the abortion rod, he leaves and never returns. This clearly divides the film into two halfs: the first of contemplation and discussion, the second of action and consequences. To me, what is the central event in the entire story occurs directly in the middle of the film, and Mungiu wisely allows us to see the events leading up to it, and the unforgivable repercussions of that event.
There are some long sequences which may bore (such as the endless talking or the dark trip to dump the foetus), but this is an almost perfect film in terms of pacing. If things were hurried, then it would lose almost all of its dramatic value. As I said before, tension is the key, and scenes of silence or building emotion are the key to that tension. This is certainly the best film of 2007, and one of the best films of its genre, and more than worthy of the Palme D’Or. Character development was brilliant, direction was brilliant, and that word, tension, was used beautifully.
Is It Worth Adding To Your Netflix Queue?
Have you seen this movie? What did you think? Leave a comment below. Thanks.