“We’re never to talk about today”
4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile [4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days] is a heavy, heavy film. I knew going in that it was considered by most to be a one-timer, a film that needs to be experienced, but one that will not make you want to watch again for a long time if ever. I guess I just didn’t think it would be as hard to watch as it is. When the synopsis says that the movie revolves around a young woman helping to assist her friend in getting an abortion, it means it. From start to finish, Cristian Mungiu’s work encompasses a single day from morning to night, packing while still not quite grasping the situation to silence upon the slow realization of the hell that they have just visited and may never be able to leave. For our main character, this is absolutely the longest day of her life and an abortion is the least of her troubles.
Otilia is played by Anamaria Marinca to perfection. She is asked to go through some excruciating events while centered in frame for extended periods of time. There are multiple long takes focused on her reactions and facial expressions while those around her converse and go about their business. When the abortion is finalized and about five minutes of straight, uncomfortable silence go by from the viewpoint of the bed looking at Otilia, we switch to a profile close-up of her as she tries to stay calm while attempting to chastise her friend for her lies and complete bungling of the proceedings. The way she must fight back the tears so as not to fully harm the distraught patient is hard to watch especially knowing what she had just gone through to allow the termination to occur. There are many more instances like this one, including a scene square on her at the dinner table of her boyfriend’s family. Cityfolk and successes, they talk about the inferiority of countryfolk as though they don’t realize one is sitting with them. They laugh and speak about how the young have no respect for their elders; well I wouldn’t either if my elders had no respect for humanity. If only they knew what was going on in her head, battling their subtle chides at her birthplace while fearing the worst for her friend whom she left behind in a locked hotel room, alone and scared waiting for her unborn child to leave her body.
By no means should anyone watch this film unless they absolutely know what they are getting into. If you thought Vera Drake was an unrelenting look into the topic of abortion, you can’t even imagine what will happen here. Probably the most controversial film I’ve seen in a long time, if not ever, this Palme d’Or winner will divide audiences and shock them to the core. It definitely begs the question for whether abortions should be legal. If you are pro-life or pro-choice, you have to still believe in safety for the mother. In a world where the procedure is illegal, we have young girls afraid of what is happening to them. They, like Gabita (a realistically tragic turn from Laura Vasiliu), face denial and wait too long to the point where their lives become at risk. An argument can surely be made that if Romania had legal abortions, this woman may have gone to a hospital earlier on rather then wait the duration of time expressed by the film’s title. With the issue of the right to life being only one example, this movie unveils a country locked into the past with a society of people without freedom. Upon graduation from college, each student is assigned an area to work the rest of their lives, (being a Tech student like Otilia pretty much means a city job in a factory, while her boyfriend continues his chemistry degree to be sent elsewhere), and they cannot go anywhere without their ID card as their movements are tracked to the point where one would get in trouble from the police for a card with a faded letter on their name. Romania appears to be a poverty stricken nation trying too hard to survive to allow its citizens to live lives without fear and dejection for the future.
Seeing what the world has come to during her journey to help a friend, Otilia finds out a lot about herself. She sees the selfishness of those around her, the reality of relationships before a career path is set being futile, how tenuous trust is between strangers and friends alike, and the responsibility that life truly requires. This film is an education on life and all the hard times it will throw at you. One has to weigh all her options and accept the situation she is in to do what she thinks is right whether onlookers will agree or not. Between what is asked of her by the “doctor” performing the termination and what her friend asks as far as disposing of the fetus, Otilia experiences a crisis of identity and faith without the ability to have any release, shown perfectly by the final shot of the film, (how perfect is that wedding reception dish set down by the waiter?).
While so much is rough to watch, nothing is done for shock value alone. Each instance happens in full context to the story. Between the rapes, the abortion procedure in full, the shocking static shot of the bathroom floor upon Otilia’s return, the frantic run to find a place for the fetus’ disposal, and even the short throwaway scene of the hotel receptionist giving the “doctor’s” ID card over as he forgot it has meaning. This man goes through the entire film saying how he has hid nothing, used his name and his car with fear of imprisonment if caught, and then we see that he left his ID card, the one thing it appears is crucial to life in Romania only leads to one explanation: he had been lying the entire time. However, can you really judge him fully after he performs the illegal service with professionalism and complete care? You most definitely can once you consider his payment, but either way it is still very uncomfortable to see this monster of sorts pat Gabita’s leg before leaving and saying “good luck” with complete sincerity. The film keeps you on your toes, moreso during the extended periods of silence, throwing tragic realities your way, mirrored off of the face of a woman broken completely under the weight placed on her shoulders, just attempting to get through the night in one piece. It’s brilliance housed in a very mentally tough package.
4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile [4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days] 8/10 | ★ ★ ★