Wednesday, 21 January 2009

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007)

I had heard much praise for this Romanian Cannes Palme d'or winner, despite its unpromising subject matter (abortion), and since I really admired a previous Romanian downbeat outing -- The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005), I was hoping for some worthwhile viewing. Frankly, however, I can not see what all the fuss was about for this slight story with its non-cinematic presentation.

Originally titled "Tales from the Golden Age" and set in Ceausescu's Romania of the 1980s when abortion was a crime, it was probably intended as a satire on a time when life in the country was anything but 'golden' and focuses on the rather drab and unpromising society that it actually was. The tale concerns two girls, roommates at a technical college, and how they go about obtaining an illegal abortion. The one who is pregnant is the sort of selfish ninny that one felt like kicking and she over-relied on her more practical friend for the final organisation, having lied to the would-be abortionist (the ironically named Mr. Bebe) about how far gone she was -- although the actual timespan of the title was never worked out, having failed to secure the required hotel room, and also having omitted to find out how much it would cost. Come the day, the final price involved her friend having to submit to his sexual demands.

Meanwhile the practical one had to try to keep her own boyfriend happy by appearing at his mother's birthday celebrations out in the middle of nowhere and realised that her own humble background remained an obstacle to any long-term prospects. This rather extended scene with his family's friends rabbiting in the background while she looks bemused might have seemed irrelevant, but it helped the viewer to realise the depth of her worries both about herself and her friend whom she had left alone at the hotel. When she returns she finds her asleep with the aborted remains on the bathroom floor which, of course, her friend expects her to dispose of . When she returns from this sorry task there is no reply from the room, but she finds the cow in the dining room stuffing her face. This is where the film ends and leaves the viewer wondering whether selfless behaviour is ever its own reward and whether our heroine could expect any support from either her friend or her boyfriend were the situation reversed. OK, it was a vaguely interesting time capsule, but seriously not worth all the hoohah it generated. PING!
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