Mr. Lazarescu, a 63 year old lonely man feels sick and calls the ambulance. When it arrives, the paramedic decides he should take him to the hospital but once there they decide to send him ... See full summary »
Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.
Romania, 1987, the brutal Ceausescu communist regime is in place; birth control is illegal and abortion is a crime punishable by death. Gabita (Laura Vasliu) is almost five months into an unwanted pregnancy and in meek desperation turns to her friend and roommate, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) for help in organizing an illegal termination. Unfortunate circumstances force the two women to use a male abortionist, Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), who, in addition to an absurd amount of money, also demands sex with both women as payment. The bleakness of the storyline expresses a dark socio-political critique in the twilight years of a repressive dictatorship. Written by
Cristian Mungiu's film is the most successful in what is called the
Romanian Cinama New Wave, although it's not the very best in my
opinion. I liked more 'The Death of Dante Lazarescu', and even
'California Dreamin' (Nesfarsit') had better chances from start. And
yet '4-3-2' succeeded better than other because it vibrates different
chords in the viewers souls and on different planes. Women will
resonate with the story of the imposed tragedy at a personal and
national level resulted from the anti-abortion policies in Communist
Romania, and one cannot say it's only a pro-choice movie, it's a real
indictment. If one is interested in recent European history he may see
the results of what communist propaganda named the Golden Age, an
apocalyptic landscape of cold, dark and loneliness. If you are Romanian
and lived these times you may feel you returned in time and the end of
the movie may seem the awakening from a recurring nightmare.
And if you are a fan of good cinema you will admire the virtuosity of a
director who learned perfectly the lessons of Jim Jarmusch and DOGMA
and transfered them in the East European space. You need the hand of a
master to create those those long shots in which every detail is in
place, camera, actors, lights and voices. I see from time to time older
Romanian movies where I observe not that much the lack of technical
means in the 70s or 80s, but more the lack of capacity of the directors
to compensate this disadvantages with simplicity of concept and turn
them into quality as other directors from less privileged schools of
cinema have done. Well, the last films of directors like Mungiu or the
late Nemescu I could see a jump ahead in quality of expression that
takes many generations for other film schools.
There are many memorable scenes in this film. One of them describes a
family dinner, where the principal character, a student from a lesser
means family arrives invited by her boyfriend. It's his mother's
birthday, and they have as guests two couples of friends from the local
mid-upper class. The scene is a nine minute shot with fixed camera,
focusing on four characters sited at the head of the table, with a few
others voices being heard from out of the screen space. She is in the
middle, and obliged to listen and participate, but she wants to be some
other place, near her friend who just underwent an illegal abortion.
Every minute may be fatal for the life of her friend. The dialog is not
meaningless, it is a short novella on its own about the art of
compromise necessary for survival in a dictatorship. And yet, she is
there and is not there - all looks like a Da Vinci painting, with Jesus
sited among the apostles, but already in a different spiritual reality.
Magnificent to follow as its character has its own life, its like a
concatenation of first plans one near the other.
In another memorable scene Otilia runs in the night to get rid of the
aborted child. It's one of these long and cold nights into which
Romania was plunged at these times because of electricity savings. She
runs on the streets scared, scared not that much by the shades of the
night but by the proof of the 'crime' she is carrying and which can
incriminate her for many years of jail if she is caught. Best horror
scene of the year in my view.
Anamaria Marinca is superb in the role of Otilia. No mannerism, no
melodrama, no make-up - the actress is just living the character of a
girl ready to sacrifice everything to help her naive and maybe a little
dumb friend. It is by this humanity of the simple people that
dictatorship can be survived at the human level the film seems to say.
'4-3-2' is a candidate for the best foreign film at the Oscars, but I
am afraid it will not get the prize. The film starts slowly and needs
patience to get the sense, and many jurors may not get over the first
third. The interest for East-European cinema is decreasing, it's not
such a new thing any longer, and Romanian cinema is little known out of
Europe. Anyway, Oscar or not, this film is simply good, and it
demonstrates that the Romanian cinema passed the period of transition
and it's time for maturity. It's now even harder, as Romanian directors
will need to find the inspiration to make films that do not look that
much into the past but still can catch the interest of the local and
international audiences. It will be interesting to follow.
77 of 97 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?