Monday, March 10, 2008

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS

There's something a little creepy about a tense abortion drama that doesn't pause to grapple with the personal morality of a mother after she's decided to terminate her pregnancy. Especially when said mother wears a golden cross around her neck. Unfortunately, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days director, Cristian Mungia, becomes so preoccupied with his "can they pull it off?" trajectory, that important character probing - which could have made 4 Months interesting - gets ignored

Admittedly, Mungia does an convincing job conveying the look-over-your-shoulder paranoia of life in 1980s communist Romania. Actors are framed in tight hallways, doorways, and rooms. Sounds startle, and civil distrust is rampant. The iron grip of the government has trickled down among the citizenry, paralyzing person-to-person courtesies of hotel clerks, doctors, and neighbors.

But is abortion the right "right" to use when examining the oppressive lean of an intrusive/abusive state??? Is Mungia hamstrung by his pro-choice agenda??? In The Lives of Others the crushing of political dissent among artists in communist East Germany was the focus, but director Henckel von Donnersmarck inserted that into the playing out of simple relationships, ambition, loyalty, and charity. The gravity of living in a police-state was felt more deeply because of the breadth of it's reach.

Another similar, and far superior, film, Vera Drake, dealt with the illegality of abortion in 1950's England. Vera's decision to perform abortions for poor women is born out of sympathy and kindness. She is a moral, ethical enigma in herself, and director Mike Leigh used Vera to bounce off societal and familial conditions that exist around one of the most tirelessly debated human topics of our lifetime.

In 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, when the abortion happens, and the fetus is covertly disposed off, a brush across the forehead is felt. The two women then retire to a restaurant and stare emotionless across a table. It's an appropriately vacant conclusion to a means-to-an-end drama because the means are never allowed meaning.

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