The Small Screen

Posted June 11, 2008 in The Small Screen

Charles Mingus once said, “making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” And that’s exactly what Romanian writer-director Cristian Mungiu has done in 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days.  Telling the story of Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) who helps her college roommate (Laura Vasiliu) arrange a black market abortion in 1980s Communist Romania, Mungiu evokes the clausterphobia of life during that regime and of the situation the two women find themselves in—but with a deceptively simple style. Instead of using music to yank at the viewer’s heartstrings, Mungiu relies on long takes that build tension because they refuse to look away, conveying the feeling that we are watching moments unfold as they might really happen, instead of how a dramatist might wish they would happen. The effect is no less harrowing for its apparent realism. A dinner party scene late in the film is squirm-inducing, as the camera lingers and lingers and lingers in one long, eight-minute take while idle table chatter reveals subtle social commentary and contrasts with the emotions we know Otila is experiencing but can’t express. The take took five days and 17 tries to complete, but comes off as if Mungiu simply filmed an actual family dinner party. The acting, production design, cinematography, writing and direction all work together to create, in their complexity, a rare example of a “simple”—yet stunningly effective—film. And in an age when horror films often fail to horrify and romantic comedies lack romance or comedy, that’s truly a creative triumph. (Red Vaughn) 



IFC Films, 113 minutes

Release date: June 17






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