2008-02-22 / Community


'4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days' - When It Was Illegal
Review By Robert Snyder

Is "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" pro-life or pro-choice?

Neither. It is anti-abortion.

The 2007 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner (which, incidentally, was subbed for a Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination) is a cinema verité dramatization of an illegal abortion in 1987 Ceausescu Romania. To say, the film is disturbing is a vast understatement.

Written and directed by Cristian Mungiu, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (the age of the film's fetus at the time of its destruction) follows tech student Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) as she struggles to get her college roommate Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) a black market abortion.

For the first third of the film, Mungu makes no attempt to explain what's happening. We see Gabita packing a bag in her dorm. Otilia meets her outof the-loop boyfriend, Adi (Alex Potocean), and proceeds to dutifully make a series of phone calls before knocking herself out to secure a hotel room for the illicit operation.

Mid-film, she meets the villain of the piece, Domnu Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), the back-door abortionist. This guy is no Vera Drake. He is a cold, cruel, ruthless businessman with little medical ability.

After catching Gabita in a lie about the age of the fetus, he launches into a brutal extortion pitch for more money or sex. Not having enough of the former, Otilia becomes the reluctant pawn for the latter. Having had his way with her, he then performs his quick and dirty procedure on Gabita. While she is waiting for the fetus and placenta to discharge from her friend's body, Otilia goes to a birthday party for Adi's mother. In a long one-shot dinner table sequence, the happy family toasts and celebrates as Otilia quietly suffers the pangs of hell. Only the audience shares her dark secret.

But the ordeal isn't over. The saintlike Otilia returns to the hotel and disposes of the fetus, which she finds on the bathroom floor. It is a miniscule, but fully formed child.

Sneaking through sinister streets and alleys where dogs bark and garbage festers, she finally drops the tragic bundle down a laundry chute in a nearby building.

This is a difficult film, with reams of sub-titled dialogue, murky visuals and no music. The ditzy, jokey quality in recent American movies approaching and sidestepping the abortion issue ("Juno," Knocked Up") finds no place in "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days."

Maybe, that's why Oscar dis'd it. Don't you.

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