Coincidentally, like Carlos Reygadas’s Silent Light, Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a film that is also characterized by the element of subverted expectation, but this time, to indelible and bracing effect. Set in Romania during the waning days of Soviet bloc communism under Nikolai Ceaucescu in the late 1980s where abortion had been outlawed as a means of increasing the country’s birth rate, the film chronicles a day in the life of Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), a pragmatic university student who, as the film begins, has agreed to assist her confused, but determined roommate, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) in obtaining an illegal abortion. But almost immediately, Otilia realizes that her flighty, unreliable roommate has not planned things with appropriate consideration: a hotel room reservation was not confirmed 24 hours before arrival and has been released to accommodate a convention, only a fraction of money needed for expenses has been raised with no money left over for contingencies, Otilia’s boyfriend, Adi (Alex Potocean) insists that she attend a family dinner party to celebrate his mother’s birthday (Luminita Gheorghiu), a male abortionist bearing the ironic moniker of Bébé (Vlad Ivanov) has been enlisted in lieu of a preferable female one, housekeeping materials that were to be brought in order to clean up and conceal traces of the performed procedure from the hotel room had been left behind, a personal, face-to-face appointment had been carelessly disregarded by Gabita, leading to Bébé’s predisposed animosity towards the young women. During the Q&A for the film, Mungiu indicated that while the film is a work of fiction, the underlying story is based on a composite of several experiences (some, far more horrific than the one portrayed in the film) of several people he knew who were of his generation and who also came of age during the Cold War and witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as the re-emergence of Romania as a democratic country. In this respect, Mungiu’s film is not only an understated allegory for the inviolability of humanity and solidarity in times of profound crisis, but also a personal testament to a forgotten, recent past that has been suppressed from a society’s collective consciousness in the wake of profound social transformation. In essence, rather than recreating an interesting, but archaic national artifact, the film remains contemporary and exceedingly relevant, not only in its attempt to exorcise and come to terms with an unreconciled history, but also as a cautionary tale on the preciousness of earned rights and personal freedoms that have been taken far too much for granted in a social climate of expected liberties, political herding, comparative wealth, and cultural apathy.
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