Tuesday, January 29, 2008
4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS (2007)……10/10
Absolutly brave filmmaking. 4 MONTHS is an uncommon, unsparing, texturally unsentimental film that never “suffices to say” anything. It never cuts from a scene, complacent that the audience “gets it.” If it did cut, it would shatter the trenchant pillar of realism and well drawn anxiety on which it stands. I'm citing the agonizing dinner scene specifically because of what is going on simultaneously outside of the scene, and also inside Otilla's (the protagonist) churning thoughts. Not only are we steeped in the narrative tension almost by force, with long uninterrupted handheld shots, but we are made keenly aware, by that regard, from the very start, how difficult and pervasive the repression is that weighs upon Romanians at this time (late 80’s) and how it informs each characters attitude, regardless of the nature of ones goals. Just getting a pack of cigarettes, or booking a hotel room becomes an arduous task. The same kind of unmitigated attention is given to the entire spectrum of details within the film, and by this stroke avoids any hampering narrative singularity, considering the severity of its core subject. I find that in films of this stylistic nature (anything by Tsai Ming-liang), one can detect the greatest prevalence of and opportunity for nuance, whether deliberate or arbitrary. The longer you look, the more you see and can draw from. It builds a more experiential and much less passive medium.
Fortunately, the film does not placate us with a simplistic ‘victimizer/victim’ conventionality, and offers the unfolding of authentic, frail, confused, and at times pathetic characters that surprise at with their alternating fortitude and naivety, and a scenario that takes all the time it needs to accumulate its details.
As the credits roll, we retain the ability to form our own opinions about the issue concerned; a woman named Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) assisting her friend Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) in an illegal abortion, because 4 MONTHS doesn’t berate us with agenda or propaganda, nor does it stoop to any academic exposition. All we need to understand in order to appreciate this film is offered in its own language of editing and mood. What I sensed from the manner of Mongiu’s film is that these types of things [abortion] will be inevitable, no matter the hazard, and that as a solution, it bears great consequence no matter what the outcome. 'Pro-choice' or 'Pro-life' doesn't really enter into it except from the viewer's own position. That is what makes 4 MONTHS such a brimming success: its willingness to peer unabated, and its refusal to judge.