Some weeks ago I went to see 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days but I didn’t have the time to post some brief comments. It’s a pretty depressing movie. The setting, a wintry day in Romania, in 1987, during the final years of the communist regime, adds to the desolate atmosphere.
If you read this you will probably already have heard something about 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days or perhaps even have seen it. It was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year and has received unanimous critical acclaim around the world. All of which is well deserved, as it is one of those rare movies that succeeds at all levels. The scenario is interesting and the acting and cinematography are great.
The camera work and long takes produce a strong sense of reality and immediacy. It trails, captures and registers. With very simple means director Cristian Mungiu renders the psychological dimension of space: a university dormitory, a corridor, a hotel room, a lobby, a staircase, a street, the seat arrangement at a dinner party.
In one scene, as she walks across a pedestrian bridge, Otilia, the friend who has helped Gabita with her abortion, suddenly starts to run. Is she being followed? Instead of trailing her, the camera stops as she disappears from view. From the left a bus drives into view. It stops. Its doors open. They close again. And the bus drives off. In the next scene Otilia is sitting inside the bus. She has made it. In an earlier scene Otilia only barely manages to obtain a ticket from someone when conductors enter the bus she is driving in. You hope that this time the tickets won’t be collected or that she has a ticket.
At some point I noticed just how conditioned I am by what I will call Hollywood movies, for lack of a better term. When Otilia walks alone on the streets at night, when the receptionist at the hotel tells her that her male visitor has forgotten his identity card, when Gabita doesn’t pick up the phone, you half expect something terrible to happen. But the terrible thing has already happened. Nothing more terrible has to happen.
The film neither promotes nor denounces abortion. It shows the consequences when women are denied legal access to abortion.
For all its bleakness you would almost forget that 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is also a film about friendship. Despite Gabita's naivité, despite the demands made of her, and the despite the fact that she has problems of her own to attend to, Otilia keeps on trying to help her.