4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

(Cristian Mungiu, 2008) Romanians may have sensed what stirred on their domestic film front in 2005 with the release of Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, but the rest of the world only whispered renaissance shortly before 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days won the Palme d’Or. It’s a worthy champion, one in a series of films by Romanians focused on the binary of daily life during and after the Ceauşescu regime. Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months builds a narrative around a loaded symbol — an aborted fetus — that pays off immediately. Communist Romania is instantly revitalized by the image of gray systems (a college dormitory) and by the presence of Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), student friends in search of an illegal abortion. A study of power’s effect on the most personal levels, 4 Months demonstrates how bureaucracy and security corrode sexual (read: individual) freedom nearly without a thought. What happens to the women in their hotel room is paternalism in its most invasive form, and Mungiu’s spare but controlled neorealism opens the scene wide, chases out the shadows, and spotlights dignity as a game of endurance. –-Ranylt Richildis

(Originally published as part of In Review Online’s The 100 Best Films of the Decade feature, in February 2010.)

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