Cinefile: Triumph visits Jerusalem

Mungiu, who was born in the Sixties just after Ceausescu outlawed abortion, said he was one of thousands of children born as a result of that decree.

hannah brown 88 (photo credit: )
hannah brown 88
(photo credit: )
There was a feeling of excitement among the SRO crowd at the Jerusalem Cinematheque last week when Cristian Mungiu, the director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, appeared at the first screening of the film in Israel. The audience was composed of two main groups: 20-something film lovers who had come to see the movie that had won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival and hear its director, and an older crowd, one that spoke Romanian and had come to celebrate their former home country's greatest cinematic triumph. Mungiu was happy to field questions from both groups after the screening. Although his movie has won many prizes in addition to the Palme d'Or and has been nominated for many others (including a Golden Globe), he didn't seem jaded. Speaking in English, he responded to each question by saying, "Thank you for asking that question," perhaps giving himself time to formulate his answer. In response to an inquiry about how much of the film was improvised, he explained that none of it was, an extraordinary feat given that the dialogue seems absolutely spontaneous. His lead actor, Vlad Ivanov, who plays the abortionist, was also on hand and confirmed this. Ivanov addressed the crowd briefly before the screening, saying, "After you see me in the movie, maybe you won't be so happy to talk to me," and it was true that he played the revolting character brilliantly. "At one screening, a man said it was wonderful that there were all non-professionals in the movie, which was a great compliment," said Ivanov, who is a professional actor, as are all the performers in the leading roles. In response to a question on why he focused the film on the friend of the woman having the abortion, rather than the pregnant woman, Mungiu answered that he wanted to concentrate on "the one who is changed by this," and that in this story, the friend is the one who will never be the same again. He did research for the film and spoke to many women with similar stories but decided to go with the plot he did because it was so dramatic and was based on the personal story of a woman he knew. After the film played in Romania, he said, many women came up to him and said either "That's my story," or "That's nothing compared with what happened to me." Audiences for the film in Romania paralleled the two groups at the Cinematheque: "Young people who come to see the movie that won the prize at Cannes and older people who remember that era when abortion was illegal." Mungiu, who was born in the Sixties just after Ceausescu outlawed abortion, said he was one of thousands of children born as a result of that decree. A sizeable portion of the audience seemed as if it would have been happy to go on asking questions all night, and Mungiu and Ivanov looked as if they would have been ready to oblige. But as the event drew to a close, the actor and the director were mobbed by their older former countrymen and they finally spoke a few words in their native tongue.