A story of friends on a very personal mission
The personal made political made personal. That’s the journey director Cristian Mungiu take us on in his breakthrough work 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
Set in Romania in 1987, the film explores a young student’s attempt to get an abortion, but more importantly it delves into the hardships of two roommates as they navigate this road together.
With any divisive political issue, a work of art has to be careful not to fall into being mere propaganda and losing the connection to real human struggles. This is especially true for anything that touches the pro-choice/pro-life debate. Mungiu never comes close to falling into this trap.
The realism with which the movie is infused keeps the action very close to the ground. Starting off in a crowded dorm, the story uses bland canvases with gentle strokes to paint a picture of two young ladies very much beholden to the power structures that exist all around them.
Early on, there’s a scene where a woman at the front desk of a hotel talks so dismissively to Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) that you’d think she was a child, not a grown woman wanting nothing but to reserve a room. The explicit message of “You’re not valued” echoes throughout the film.
When Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), the man who will administer the procedure enters the scene, this power imbalance continues and even amplifies. He’s a complicated character, not in the conflicted nature of his work what with abortion being illegal in Romania at the time, but in his true motivations. He’s both a savior and a monstrous persona all rolled up in one.
Mungiu made the choice to have the woman with the unwanted pregnancy, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) play second fiddle to her friend. It’s Otilia that we see doing the legwork that’s required to pull this off, and even take on some suffering herself in the process.
This is exemplified best in a scene toward the end of the movie when she visits the home of her boyfriend’s parents, and while reeling from all that’s happened, has to sit in the middle of a group of Romanian elites as they pontificate on all manner of subjects. In that moment, her agency and place in the world is put into stark relief. She isn’t treated poorly, but it’s obvious just how little use the world has for a 23 year old of limited means and with even more limited prospects.
Mungiu’s more recent film Graduation tackles similar themes in a more modern setting. In 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, we see the beginnings of a talent that continues to contribute to world cinema, capturing life in his country in way that lays bare the humanity in us all.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- New 4K digital restoration, supervised and approved by director Cristian Mungiu, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with Mungiu
- New interview with film critic Jay Weissberg on the New Romanian Cinema
- The Romanian Tour, a short documentary from 2007 on the film’s reception in Romania
- Press conference from the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, featuring Mungiu; DP Oleg Mutu; and actors Vasiliu, Ivanov, and Potocean
- Alternate and deleted scenes
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by critic Ella Taylor