Cannes Film Festival Big Winner: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
The 60th Cannes Film Festival announces 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days as best film of the fest, bestowing the coveted Palm d'Or upon the modest production. Directed by Cristian Mungiu, the sleeper reigned supreme in a competition that included the American productions of Zodiac and No Country for Old Men, the French release of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and the Iranian set Persepolis.
Set in Romania, 1987, the film centers on the issue of birth control during the brutal Ceausescu communist regime. At this time, abortion is an illegal crime punishable by death. The friendship of two college friends is tested when one girl (Laura Vasiliu) discovers she is almost five months into an unwanted pregnancy. She seeks an illegal abortion with the help of her friend and roommate (Anamaria Marinca). In secretively organizing an illegal termination, Marinca engages the services of a shady back street operator. The two young heroines find themselves in an uneasy situation, relying on their mutual support to see them through. Thinly veiled, this film set among the last days of a socialistic dictatorship is a sharp critique of the impact of politics upon social issues.
The hidden character in this film is Romanian Communist Party leader Nicolae Ceaușescu, the man who enacted the abortion law Decree in 1966 in order to increase the population (wow). The law was not based on any religious opposition to abortion, but on the government's effort to control its citizens. Thus, in essence, decreeing women as second-class citizens, stripping them of any right to be heard. The film is seen to be an accurate portrait of the oppression, and poor state of the economy in the later days of Ceaușescu's regime.
The initial idea for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was inspired by a true anecdote the director Cristian Mungiu had heard fifteen years prior to the making of the film. Years later Mungiu wanted to create a serious film focusing on the true story. It was a subject that still affected him more than a decade later. To be as true to life as possible, he conducted interviews with many people had who lived through the period to determine if the experience was common. Mungiu hoped that basing the story on factual accounts would distinguish the film from previous Romanian productions based on the same topic.
Well, apparently, Mungiu's production has indeed distinguished itself as different and unique amongst previous Romanian films as well as the films at this year's Cannes Film Festival. No doubt, an international release will follow, perhaps even an entry as Best Foreign Film in the next Oscar race. Either way, I encourage you to seek out this film for its important societal message, its political examination, and its craftsmanship. It is films like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days that show the world that fine films can be entertaining while examining, and challenging, the status quo.