The new movie, "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days," about an illegal abortion in Romania during its communist era, won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The New York Times, in a rave review
, said that that Christian Mungiu’s new work "deserves to be seen by the largest audience possible, partly because it offers a welcome alternative to the coy, trivializing attitude toward abortion now in vogue in American fiction films." Too highbrow a recommendation for you? Okay. Entertainment Weekly calls it
"...one of the very best movies of 2007...a masterpiece." So when a Jesuit friend asked if I wanted to see this "masterpiece" this weekend, I readily agreed. It’s hard to say no to a movie that had the adjectives "brilliant" and "startingly good" (the BBC, among others) applied to it. So imagine my surprise when I found it to be only good. It made me wonder whether the same adjectives would be applied were the perceived "message" different. The movie tracks the tragic progress of two college roommates scraping by in 1980s Romania. One, a mousy sad woman, is pregnant and is seeking an abortion. The other, her more resourceful friend, tries mightily to borrow enough funds to pay for an illegal abortion. Without giving away the ending, I can say that the movie is unreservedly bleak, and graphic: at one point, one sees a fetus on a bathroom floor. It is horrid sight. The New York Times was clearly on point with the observation that this is not a "coy, trivializing attitude." Yet after the movie ended I wondered what all the fuss was about. Other low-budget movies were equally gritty, boasted equally good performances, showcased equally good camera angles, and featured equally good dialogue. I wonder how much of the adulation of reviewers (and the judges at Cannes) stemmed from what they may have perceived as the "message" of the movie: i.e., illegal abortions are bad, so legal ones must be good. For me, the movie was a litany of the horrors of any abortion, and as much a "pro-life" movie as "Juno,"
which I had seen the day before. How can observing a lifeless fetus make one anything but pro-life? "4 Months... Official Site"
James Martin, SJ