Rightwing Film Geek

Fisking myself on 4 MONTHS

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Actually, this isn’t really a “fisk,” more like my saying “Mr. Speaker, permission to revise and extend my remarks” about 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS, beyond what I said back in September when I first saw it.

unlike in VERA DRAKE, nobody says abortion is wrong

That isn’t quite true. There is a conversation Otilia has with her boyfriend where she asks what he would do if she were in Gabita’s position. He says, not to her joy, that he would marry her because he’s against abortion because it’s so dangerous. Which doesn’t actually count as “wrong” in my opinion¹ … but it is one reason to be against abortion.

There’s even a hint, only a hint, in Marinca’s performance in this scene, that her question might actually not be hypothetical. And earlier in the movie, Otilia mentions in passing getting notes to lie about her period. (This is one example of 4 MONTHS being so utterly “lived-in” and thus so endlessly rich with details that may or may not mean anything flying off like pinwheels. Another — the abortionist leaves behind his ID at the hotel desk; was it fake?)

Abortion as either a moral matter or a political issue simply does not appear, on either side.

This is mostly correct. Politics certainly never enters the picture (except to the extent that short conversations about the consequences of getting caught reflect decades-ago political actions; which is a stretch), and morality isn’t an explicitly textual matter, for the reasons I there stated.

4monthsmungiu.jpgBut it is now inconceivable to me that this movie could have been made by people who didn’t have deep qualms about abortion and the film reflects that, however far the makers may wish to take it — whether they connect the lines, or dot the i’s and cross the t’s (or whatever metaphor appeals to you). It’s not just The Shot, which seemed on second viewing last week to go on for twice as long as it had in my memory, but also the shooting of the subsequent disposal scenes, which use tropes frequently seen in horror movies — dark of night, dog on the soundtrack, running into the middle of a composition where the perspective seems to stretch into infinity.

It’s also the ending, as I wrote in the post below (and which David Edelstein rebelled against; an infallible sign that one is doing something right on this topic). It’s also how the abortion is depicted as a violation itself — Gabita says while lying down “it hurt when he put it in me,” and it’s not obvious whether she’s talking about Bebe’s catheter or his penis (though there be subtitling/translation issues). And director Cristian Mungiu has said repeatedly in interviews that under Ceausescu, “abortion lost any moral connotation and was rather perceived as an act of rebellion and resistance against the regime.” In another, he said at Cannes that he wanted people to consider deeply “the moral issue” of abortion rather than about “getting caught.” All of which presupposes that there is a moral issue in the first place.²

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February 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

The end of 4 MONTHS

 

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In a discussion at the Arts & Faith discussion board, Steve Greydanus asked a question about the ending of 4 WEEKS, 3 MONTHS AND 2 DAYS (SPOILER warning), and a good one that speaks to part of what the film says and shows about abortion:

Is it Gabita or Otilia who comments in the final scene that “we must never speak about this again”? I remember it as Gabita but I’m not sure. Also, I don’t have the exact wording in my notes — anyone have it? Thanks.

Actually, that final line was spoken by Otilia, the women who arranges the abortion for her friend Gabita and whom the movie mostly follows. And the context is particularly damning. Here is the last exchange from my notes, which obviously are fallible in small details but not the ones I’ll emphasize. The pair are sitting down at a restaurant.

Gabita: Did you bury it?
Otilia: You know what we’re going to do. We’re never going to talk about this. OK?

Then a lengthy, lengthy pause and no words are exchanged between the women, until the film suddenly cuts to black.

Leading into that conversation, they had been served their dinner, and Steve describes it thus in his excellent review:

4 Months comes closest to commentary in the final scene, which finds one of the main characters sitting down to a meal in the restaurant of the hotel where the abortion was performed. A wedding reception is in full swing in the next room, but a fight has broken out in the party. The waiter brings a dish from the reception menu: beef, liver, kidneys, breaded brains. What happens when human beings treat one another as no more than this? 4 Months offers queasy but meaty food for thought.

Look at all the signifiers here: a wedding, the icon of sex, gone wrong; body parts served, as if in response to the “never speak of this again” answer; a lengthy shot of silence, as if absorbing the unspeakable. And then there’s that last question, thus prompting that answer.

The women had been told, quite pragmatically, by the abortionist not to flush the baby down the toilet (it’ll stop up the plumbing and prompt an investigation) and not to bury it (dogs will dig it up for food), but to toss it down a high-rise garbage chute (untraceable and probably never to be noticed). Otilia considered both these alternatives while carrying the towel-wrapped corpse; she even gets the attention of some dogs who can smell the blood in her bag. She did what the abortionist told her. But Gabita asks her “did you bury it?” The answer is unspeakable … and so, we’re never going to talk about this. OK?

February 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment