4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

With the weekly openings of Hollywood blockbusters, it’s no surprise that the majority of Americans aren’t exposed to independent films. It’s really a shame; some of today’s most inspired and unique films are being made with meager budgets and poor equipment. To support up-and-coming directors, I find ways to see these less commercial movies. When something as refreshing as “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” comes along, it only makes me want to watch more “indie films.” In Cristian Mungiu’s first successful feature film, the audience is led through a day in the life of two college students living in 1987’s Communist Romania. Over the course of a few hours, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) travels through a rundown city to help her roommate and friend, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), have an illegal abortion. As the day progresses, Otilia meets with frustrating hotel staff, her boyfriend’s judgmental parents and the manipulative Dr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), the man performing the abortion. A bleak look at life during Communist oppression in Romania, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” focuses on Otilia’s thoughts and emotions as she walks through this hellish day. Stretching 113 minutes over the period of a few hours, “4 Months” looks out a very small window of time at Romanian life. And yet, the emotions evoked from this brief film have moved people around the world; “4 Months” won Festival de Cannes top prize, the Palm d’Or. One of the best Romanian movies ever made, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” puts Cristian Mungiu and his work on the map. One thing that is important to realize about “4 Months” is that it is a period piece; it focuses specifically on Communist rule of Romania during the 1980’s. Much of the film is built on the assumption that the audience knows the politics surrounding that time period. It was a risky time, and Mungiu really wanted to capture the loss of hope and defeated feelings among the people. Without prior knowledge, audience members could watch the entire film and miss out on much of its meaning. For this reason, “4 Months” is slightly inaccessible. Once you have a context to base the film on, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” really begins to show its complexity. On the surface, it can be seen as a fairly one-dimensional film. The script is sparse and the settings are bleak and minimal. Not only that, but the story follows a short time in Otilia’s life, which consists of finding cigarettes and walking around silently. But the seemingly dull moments are packed full of meaning and poignant camera work, with long, straight shots and the wobble of an amateur cameraman. This, combined with the claustrophobic settings, gives the entire film a feeling of suspense. Coupled with the despair of the times, the tension makes for an engrossing movie. For a movie with so much to say, it’s amazing that the script is fairly minimal. The lines are short and to-the-point. A large portion of the movie doesn’t involve speech, instead relying on shots of actors’ faces. Luckily, every single actor was perfect. As Anamaria Marinca walks through run-down streets, she conveys all of her thoughts in a simple look, which is no easy task. But, the finest performance was by Vlad Ivanov. He manipulates and intimidates the girls in one of the creepiest scenes of the year. He plays such a scummy character, but he gives it depth and suspense. “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” is an emotional movie that isn’t packed with traditional Hollywood glamour. Sure, it can be slightly slow and inaccessible to some, but once you get into it, “4 Months” will make you think. It is certainly not a happy movie, but it is a deep and gritty look at human misery. Its message may be unappealing, but it’s a truth that forces us to look at past injustices. Grade: 5