4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile (2007)
Using almost solely his handheld camera usually stuck in the desperate and determined faces of two female students living under Ceauşescu's increasingly oppressive Romania towards the end of the communistic period in the late 1980s. It was a time when the once popular and boldly independent dictator had lost contact with his people completely - a people that suffered heavily while Romania paid off its extensive foreign debt acquired during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the midst of the hardships of a failed social system, our protagonists must face the challenge of an unwanted pregnancy in a strict legislation that prohibited abortion. Cristian Mungiu shows abundances of ability when it comes to conveying strenuous human interactions without falling flat or becoming too obvious. And he uses this ability to get under our skin and make an impact. The film has a lot in common with Mike Leigh's Vera Drake, but while the former conveys people's goodness in difficult situations, 4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile explores the determination and selfishness that necessitates in these situations. The strength of the lead character, Otilia, is a remarkable example of how women can retain their dignity and self-respect in an overly patriarchal society where lack of prosperity has brought the most basal and brutish aspects of humanity to the surface.
Mungiu's writing is thoughtful and filled with insight, but it is the direction that arguably gave him the Golden Palm in Cannes. He shows that he masters many different aspects during 4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile, from the situational ensemble segment early on (with quite a lot of Altman in it), through the observing interpersonal drama and the opaque suspenseful scenes towards the end. And the common denominator is the directness with which it is all done. A potent film.