Nearly two decades after the fall of communism in Romania, a second revolution is under way. On the front lines, you’ll find director Cristian Mungiu and a handful of his compatriots attracting international acclaim for their new, hyperreal storytelling technique.
Mungiu won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2007 (as well as director and picture honors at the European Film Awards) for his second feature, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.” Stylistically, the film is the antithesis of your well-lit, elegantly shot Hollywood movies — or the locally made films of Mungiu’s childhood.
“I remember watching many propagandistic examples of Romanian cinema and thinking nothing like that ever happened to us. These people were talking the same language but still looked like aliens,” he says.
Rather than telling abstract fictions about imaginary characters, Mungiu was drawn to true stories.
“It’s my deep belief that we make films for the audience, but I don’t want to be dishonest, so I started questioning all the formal decisions you make as a filmmaker,” he explains. “I was looking for very pure mechanisms of sustaining the tension within the film without using fast editing or music. In the last 45 minutes, a lot of people experience this film as a thriller, although it’s still done in just one shot per scene.”
“Coming from theater, I was delighted to have the long takes,” says lead actress Anamaria Marinca, who praises Mungiu for “his ability to spot the important stories and transfigure it artistically.”
Mungiu had written a series of short screenplays retelling urban legends and actual experiences under communist rule but elected to make “4 Months” first. Now, he’s focused on producing those shorts, only one of which he’ll direct himself.
“There’s an even younger generation of Romanian filmmakers that need to get some attention,” he says, “and I think I’m in the position right now to present these people to the audience.”
PROVENANCE: Iasi, Romania
INSPIRED BY: Such filmmakers as Milos Forman and Krzysztof Kieslowski, but adds, “I prefer (Forman’s) ‘Fireman’s Ball’ to Kieslowski, mostly because it’s a very funny story. The problem with (Kieslowski’s) best film, which was ‘The Decalogue,’ was that (he) had to prove something in every episode. I don’t like to make films about stories where I know the conclusions already.”