4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Cristian Mungiu

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Cristian Mungiu
Last year’s best theatrical feature is still a must-see on DVD — few current films have the same conceptual force and ethical grounding as this standard-bearer for the Romanian new wave. Set just a couple of years before the fall of Ceaucescu, it follows a couple of university students as they rent a room for reasons unknown. As it turns out, the one is procuring an abortion for another, only to find an abusive coat-hanger bully doing the deed and the pregnant girl fudging the facts about the length of her pregnancy. It’s a very simple set-up but the film’s everything-in-a-day structure takes them from the unassuming morning into a dark night of male misunderstanding and terrible deeds done. Aside from one or two clunky scenes of exposition, the film has incredible flow, with the heaviness sneaking up on you and intensifying until the final, devastating line. The interplay between the scared pregnant girl and her beleaguered compatriot is spot on, and the brutal condescension of the abortionist is one of the great slaps in the face of recent cinema. And its thematics are amazingly subtle — neither political tract nor self-contained narrative, it embodies the old cliché of "the personal is political” without heavy-handedness or self-congratulation. It’s hard to have resolved feelings on what happens but that’s the point, and the film earns its ambiguity instead of just using it to avoid drawing conclusions. Special features are sparse but excellent: two very articulate interviews with director Cristian Mungiu and DP Oleg Mutu, as well as a sad featurette on the film’s post-Cannes victory tour through a home country now almost devoid of movie theatres. (Mongrel Media)