In 1980s Romania, the brutal Ceausescu dictatorship is still in power. Gabita turns to her friend Otila, for help in organizing an illegal abortion. A crime punishable by death. They enlist the services of the shady Mr. Bebe.
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What's most surprising is Mungiu's use of thriller tropes to lift what is ostensibly a serious, harrowing drama into a masterfully nailbiting ride - the slow reveal of the villain of the piece is breathtaking, and there's even a wry twist on Chekhov's Gun. The cast is astonishing too - one can only wonder at what Mungiu's direction was during that long, excruciating dinner party scene.
A low key film set in the last days of the Ceausescu regime in Romania about a young student going through a harrowing abortion and the support and suffering by her best friend. Not a film easily forgotten.
One of the most harrowing and unpleasant films in memory, but utterly profound and purposeful in its motivation. As a campaign piece against the austerity of pro-life legislation, it is as polemical as it gets. This reads like a worst case scenario of the need to 'go underground' with a backyard abortion when pro-choice is outlawed. Sour as hell, important as it gets. Euro-cinema with a righteous sting.
Cristian Mungiu had me glued to the screen for 113 minutes straight with this masterly, suspenseful and stark rendering of human condition and crucial choices in a septic and derelict society. His minimalism may initially come off as lacking in detail, but as the story unfolds, Mungiu achieves astonishing things in terms of atmosphere, tension and precision within his hand held tableaux. A masterpiece.
Although the subject matter is anything but light-hearted, the formal elements of the film are what prove to be the most challenging. We (and the characters) are trapped inside claustrophobic frames for seemingly endless amounts of time, bombarded with disturbances from the hors-champ, and forced to endure the paroxysms and uncertainty of a mobile hand-held camera. A difficult film but one which deserves much praise.
It's a frustrating film, offering you no reward for enduring it. But it gets this simple, universally known message across brutally and skillfully, making sure we don't forget it. That message is that the world and people inside it are ugly. What I find most chilling about Mungiu's film is that it challenges the viewer to find any hope when it concludes. What a sick, ugly, brave piece of art it is...