Posted by: kfugrip | January 30, 2008

The anti-Juno

It is a rare thing to experience a movie and for it’s beauty to slowly consume you like a fever. Even more rare, is when a film about dire subject matter does this.
4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile (or 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), written and directed by Cristian Mungiu, is a revelation. The film is about a woman who helps her friend and roommate procure an abortion. This all happens in 1980’s communist Romania, where having an abortion was illegal and could get all parties connected with it imprisoned.

Spoiler Alert !

What I liked: The first thing that jumps out at me is that the film is beautifully shot and composed. The cinematography appears to use natural light and practicals as the main source in most scenes but I think that is a tribute to the skill of Oleg Mutu the cinematographer. Later in the film there are scenes where Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) is walking through the streets trying to find a safe place to dump the aborted remains and she walks into scenes with no light, we only hear the sound of her footsteps and breathing, before the emerges again in a pool of light. It is a very tense sequence and the visuals meet perfectly with the content of the scene.

The performances are as fantastic as the direction. Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, and Vlad Ivanov are pitch perfect and exist in harmony with the minimalist reality that Mungiu creates. The tools that the actors have at their disposal is limited to subtle and delicate effect. This film seems as though it appeared in front of the camera rather than being written. From the opening scenes of typical student life under a communist regime, purchasing cigarettes via the black market and borrowing train tickets, the film sets the tone of realism. Mungiu’s integrates a mobile camera in the style of the Dardenne Brothers with a still camera to create a sense of how the character’s lives are lived, with stops and starts.

All who read this blog regularly know my predilection towards long-takes. We aren’t in Bela Tarr area, but the film is structured in long takes focused Otilia and her journey. It’s amazing that more people don’t respond favorably to long takes. When the frame is active, as it is in 4 Months…, then it is a joy to watch. I’m in awe of a filmmaker who can direct the eye without moving the camera or cutting, controlling the visual experience with minimal manipulation and simultaneously telling the story. There is one masterful sequence where Otilia is at a birthday party of her boyfriend’s mother (Luminita Gheorghiu). Eventually the party settles in front of a single long take where Otilia is bombarded with political and social issues that emanate from the intelligentsia. It is a masterful shot and tells an immense amount of story in an apparently simple way. It is, however, quite complex, with dialogue that overlaps when it isn’t rapid-fire, and individualized performances where the eye darts from face to face, always returning to Otilia.

Tonally I like that the film is devoid of melodrama and everything is understated, even the shot of the aborted fetus. Though that shot is shocking and one of the more disturbing images I’ve seen in awhile, I think that it is warranted and powerful given the subject matter.

What I didn’t like: Warning. The following is the most petty and insignificant criticism I’ve ever produced;

The opening and closing credits start with silence, a prolonged silence that is actually distracting because of it’s lack of sound. A credit sequence should aid in setting the tone for the piece and I don’t feel that silence was the strongest choice. However, I do think that there is intent in that choice and not randomness.

It is difficult to recommend this film because it is in my wheelhouse, and it’s a phenomenal film but would I tell my mother to watch it? Maybe.

5 stars

4-months-1.jpg

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Responses

  1. This movie was flat out amazing, maybe my favorite film of 2007…I’m having trouble putting it after anything in my yearly rankings. I thought about it all night and off and on all of today. It was an incredible experience.

    I would never recommend this movie to my parents, but I’d say as a rule I don’t recommend any movie that I give 5 stars – we just don’t have the same taste – but it doesn’t make this film any less brilliant. To make up for the fact that I can’t recommend this movie to my parents, I never stopped talking about it today, bored all my collegues to tears, and then recommended it several times over…

  2. Its got a sweet ass poster.


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