Thursday, March 19, 2009

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days


  • Released Internationally on 24/08/07
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 29/10/08. Wide release on 11/03/09

(Romanian with English subtitles)

In a nutshell

Otilia and Gabriela are two university students who share a room in mid-80s communist Romania. Otilia offers to help the timid and clueless Gabriela arrange and go through with an illegal abortion, and the whole experience proves to be a complex and harrowing experience for both of them. Set and filmed in Bucharest, the film gained international attention after winning the Palme D’Or at the 2007 Cannes film festival.

Sad but true

Director and writer Cristian Mungiu based his screenplay on a true story, and he gives us a detailed look at the day that these two students promise to never talk about again. From the early morning preparations as they leave their dorm and set out for the hotel, through the meeting and dealing with the so-called ‘Mr. Bebe’, who carries out the clandestine terminations, we see through Otilia’s eyes the dread and frustration as the desperate day unfolds. The lengths she goes through for her hapless friend are amazing, but not a single event of the day rings untrue, as these very detailed and authentic characters live through their ordeal.

Not your average popcorn flick

The day is divided into sequences according to the changing locations, and each one is filmed with very long shots, creating a very unsettling sense of being there. If you like your films fast and furious, this might not be your cup of tea. The skills of the actors are all the more evident, as they take us through seemingly interminable scenes without missing a beat. It’s almost as if you’re watching a deranged reality-show, with real life unfolding at its normal pace as you stare on from your hidden camera.


As each lengthy scene progresses, the feeling of uneasiness builds. With the life of the girl at stake, both health-wise and legally, each moment of the day is fraught with importance. In possibly the best sequence, Otilia has to leave her friend for a while as she is obliged to attend a dinner party at her boyfriend’s house. She sits, silent, at the rowdy table as conversation flies around her, and we all know her mind is elsewhere. Faintly, in the background, the phone starts ringing, but the happy dinner guests are oblivious. It continues to ring, and she fears the worst. It’s simple, but eerily effective.

In the end

Films like this stand out because of how different they are. One might be forgiven for thinking that all films fall into certain cookie-cutter categories, as dictated by Hollywood. But we should remind ourselves that there’s a whole world of cinema out there, with certainly as much variety in quality as big-budget films themselves. Language barriers and accessibility are a problem, but thankfully once in a while something like a Palme D’Or can bring something like this to our screens. If you’re not in the mood for lighter fare, and if you want to see something very different, and very well-made, you can’t go wrong with this.


Trailer: (High-res Quicktime)

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