Jarring, Thought-Provoking “4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS”

Not Rated, 113 minutes, IFC Films

I have not seen all the films that exist in the world – of course not – and who has? It is simply an impossible feat to be accomplished by any one human being in their lifetime, but this still does not stop us from uttering exclamations like “the greatest in the history of cinema” or “the best ever made” about certain things that strike us so powerfully. I find myself saying these sort of things all the time about some of the films, or specific aspects of the creation of a film that I see. It might be a premature statement to some people, but if only they knew that by “best ever made” I mean only from everything I’ve viewed in my lifetime to this point. Anyway, before I make the mistake of getting lost in an even deeper rambling, I must note that the new film from Cristian Mungiu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, is certainly the most realistic experience I have ever witnessed inside a movie theater and arguably the most realistic I’ve ever seen, period. Mungiu, along with his cinematographer Oleg Mutu, unconventionally choose to take on this project with a scope that is uninterrupted and without any kind of technical, flashy tidbits that would even remind us that we’re watching a film. The actors always seem like they are touchable and not on a screen, the surroundings create an atmosphere that draw us in before we can even think about being drawn in, and the reality of the film’s themes and its uncanny ability to make us feel for what’s happening and contemplate about what these characters are contemplating, is a rarity. This is a tough film to get through, but one of the most rewarding if you’re a serious moviegoer.

Anamaria Marinca gave one of the truly brilliant performances of last year as Otilia, a young college student in 1987 Communist Romania with many things going on in her life, certainly with her share of personal problems, at the top of the list being the stress of trying to set up a then illegal abortion for her roomate, Gabita. We follow the two women, with the true focus on Otilia on the day that all of this is to finally go down, and it all unfolds as if this were a true full day, no stylistic editing retreats that cross out what the normal audience member would consider “boring”. There are wide takes, never accompanied by any sort of musical score, and the performances, particularly when they are forced to go long stretches with no dialogue at all, to express grief and guilt, are phenomenal. We are along for the unpredictable, dangerous ride that Otilia and Gabita have trapped themselves in, through the less-than-inviting streets, back alleys, hotels, and lobbies of this area of Romania. For whatever the surroundings make us feel, and they made this person here very on edge from beginning to end, the people that these women come across are twice as nerve-racking…especially the “doctor” who they managed to find at the last minute. The amount of pressure that Otilia is put under, and it constantly builds to more and more with the irresponsible choices of Gabita showing rampant by the minute, is enough to make a weaker person age ten years in the span of 24 hours. Watching her try to make the best and right decisions that will be the least painful for everyone involved, watching her try to be as unselfish and faithful as she can without crumbling into bits, is devastating, true to life, and harrowing. Marinca is simply a revelation.

To reveal anything in specifics of what is unfolded in the film would be not only a waste of time, but a travesty if you’re still reading this and consider yourself interested and a cinema lover. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is one of the best films I have ever seen. It’s one I admire more than almost every single film I’ve watched to this point in my life because it achieves what it was setting out to achieve, and by never straying away from its goal of giving not just a sense of realism, but becoming wholly real. 2007 was a marvelous year for cinema, and Mungiu’s film is one of the top highlights of the time, which brings me to the point where I must express my pure hatred for the Academy voters. To not even have this film as a nomination, let alone a win, is undoubtedly one of the biggest mishaps in all of the event’s 80 years of life. That is something I can guarantee without even seeing most of the foreign entries that were chosen for nods. It’s just that good. No, great. No, mesmerizing. No, perfect. As I was watching the film I knew I was experiencing something completely unique and special, but it wasn’t until hours, days, and even weeks later, after realizing that it was still entirely in my thoughts, that it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

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