Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sight & Sound on "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days"

In searching for information on Cristian Mungiu's masterful 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (IFC, 1.25), I ran across this piece by Ben Walters from British film magazine Sight & Sound, whose critics poll just named 4 Months the best film of the 2007, and is their spotlighted film of the month.

Mungiu demonstrates great proficiency with suspense throughout. The opening 20 minutes, before the nature of Gabita's quest becomes apparent, evoke a growing, unspecified unease, while the director has aptly described the "thriller rhythm" of the final phase in which Otilia sets out to dispose of the foetus without incriminating herself. There are elements of noir to this guilty nocturnal sequence, which is bathetically foreshadowed near the beginning when Otilia narrowly evades a fine for travelling on the bus without a ticket. Amusing as the earlier scene is, it sets the tone of a life of near misses and tentatively offered bribes.

Unlike Lazarescu, after all, 4 Months is located in the past. The death throes of the Ceausescu regime have formed the backdrop to several Romanian titles - The Paper Will Be Blue, How I Spent the End of the World and 12:08 East of Bucharest - but 4 Months unfolds in its dog days, a drab, stagnant late-communist milieu partly familiar from Germany's Good Bye, Lenin! and The Lives of Others. There's no whiff of real resistance, let alone revolution, in the air, merely a Sisyphean bracing against the machinery of the state. As with the characters and narrative, the 1980s setting is conveyed through telling local detail - such as the boy in the shabby-genteel dorms who does a reliable trade in western cigarettes, gum and VHS cassettes.

Here is the film's excellent trailer:


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