4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days

first_img****Winner of the Palme d’Or, this is the latest acclaimed film from the burgeoning Romanian film industry. The second feature from director Christian Mungui, it tells the story of a student in 1987 communist Romania seeking an illegal abortion. The pregnant Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) is aided by her roommate Ollita (Anamaria Marinca). As they try to avoid the prying eyes of the state and a prison sentence they seek the help of Mr. Bebe who is to perform the operation.The defining feature of this film is its sometimes shocking realism. The camera does not shy away from the details and this is vital to its ultimate success. By denying the preservation of his characters’ dignity, Mungui creates an effect of reality that immediately grips the viewer, aided by the conspicuous absence of music. He makes the most of a low budget with inventive use of the camera. The action switches between long stationary takes, often forcing the viewer to follow the characters from afar, to fast-moving handheld shots, many at night, which make the action difficult to follow but help to create a tense atmosphere. There is also good use of subtle tools such as background movement, light and shadow that keep one’s eyes glued to the screen, even through long periods of no dialogue.The standout of this film, however, is the wonderful performance from Marinca as its resourceful heroine. There are very few moments when she is not on screen as the story is told from Ollita’s perspective, a wise choice by Mungui that results in riveting tension and fully utilises Marinca’s undoubted talent. Often she is alone and there is reliance only on her facial expression and body language to carry the shot, but she is a magnet for the camera. Vasiliu provides excellent support as the timid Gabita; indeed the performances are good all round.Occasionally Mungui tries too hard to demonstrate the difficulties of living under the communist regime: a scene at the dinner table of a party which hurriedly covers most of the faults in Romanian sociey feels a little too blunt. But ultimately the film is a great achievment; captivating yet grounded in realism throughout. by Ben Williamslast_img

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