4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a stunning piece of cinema – slow, calculated and thoroughly absorbing.
The cinematography is astonishing for its complete lack of flair. Super-long takes focus on one person sitting in silence for minutes. Other times it deliberately shows us only one side of a conversation. This style forces us to focus intently on the performances, all off which are stunning.
The film is set in Bucharest during Communist rule. Anamaria Marinca plays Otilia, a young woman helping her friend to get an illegal abortion. The narrative actually focuses on Otilia throughout, from the dramatic moments to the minutiae like organising a hotel room and obtaining soap. It’s a stressful day, to say the least, and large chunks of the film play out in real time (often during the aforementioned single takes). Interestingly, the film is less concerned with Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), who goes through the primary ordeal first hand – this is Otilia’s story.
The man who’s there to do the job is Mr Bebe, played deftly by Alexandru Potocean, who is both businesslike and brutal as he calmly states the way in which the process works. Rather than play him as evil or sympathetic, Mr Bebe is somewhere in between, though would rather bully the women through word games than give any straight answers.
This is a horridly bleak film, but brilliant all the same. The Romania on show here is fascinating – the structures may be failing but the communities seem to form tight bonds – not that our main characters ever get to appreciate this. When Otilia has to attend her boyfriend’s mother’s party, the guests go about enjoying life, as oblivious to her as she is to their repartee.
Writer/director Cristian Mungiu’s script doesn’t really take a stance on abortion at all, and this film isn’t really about that debate. It’s a confronting representation of the horrible process one has to go through when there are no other options, and any statement perceived probably has more to do with the viewer than the film.Rating: