Tuesday, 21 February 2012
#30 Romania — Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days (2007)
A Romanian friend of mine told me that she saw this film with a male friend of her's. His reaction upon coming out of the cinema was "My ovaries hurt". That pretty much sums up my reaction both times I've seen the film.
Four Months... is not subtle. It doesn't "suggest" themes, it takes them, shapes them into a nice big boot and delivers a swift kick to the balls. Repeatedly. The main themes are found in the abortion which serves as the central plot element and the value of life, which the characters (and the viewer) are forced to contemplate afterwards. These are not shown in a morally ambiguous way for the viewer to interpret; the film is, at heart, almost a propaganda film.
It is set during the 1980s in Romania, when abortions were illegal. We are dragged along behind two young women, one who wants their pregnancy aborted. What follows is shocking and hard to watch, but is given a very humanistic slant by creating strong, believable characters whose feelings are very easy to empathise with.
The direction is stellar; there is nothing to distract the viewer from the core of the film, it is very well paced and has a number of phenomenal scenes which are among the best of the decade. In particular, a static dinner party shot which lasts around 10 minutes is perhaps one of the most simple but deep and heartbreaking shots in modern cinema.
The cold and raw cinematography goes along with the stark and uncompromising presentation. It doesn't adhere to any one style, instead shifting between them as necessary. For example, a long hand-held camera journey through dark and ominous alleys is just as accomplished as the aforementioned static dinner shot.
Both leads put in excellent performances. Their characters are very real and subtly emotive; their naivety and confusion seem very organic and unforced.
Although the focus is very much on the central themes, the deliberate pacing gives the viewer a lot of time to contemplate the more universal applications of the content. Because of this, it isn't just a film about abortion, it's a film about the choices we make for good or bad, friendship, the strains which relationships go through when difficult situations arise and much more.
Four Months... is not an easy film to watch, but it's one which will stay with you for the rest of your life. Perhaps the effect is comparable to that of Requiem for a Dream. I could not imagine anyone taking hard drugs after watching that film, nor can I imagine anyone getting an abortion after seeing this one. It was one of the most important and powerful films of the noughties and I'm sure it will maintain a strong reputation in years to come. Recommended to anyone who can stomach the content or thinking about getting an abortion.