- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” is a somber film about one aspect of life in Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania. Writer-director Cristian Mungiu purposely made it that way.

The idea for the film came in part, he said at the AFI Silver Theatre late last year while in town for the European Union Showcase, after he wrote a script for a series of shorts he wanted to make starting with “the urban legends of the late communist times” and “the small side effects of a grand dictatorship.” A young actor, who wasn’t old enough to know much about the 1965-1989 Ceausescu era, read the script and told him, “Wow, it must have been very funny to live then.”

Mr. Mungiu realized, “If this is what you get from it, then it’s not all right. That’s not how it was.”

The serious young filmmaker, who was born in 1968 but looks barely older than 30, decided to make a more realistic film that avoided the tone of such nostalgia pieces as the German film “Good Bye, Lenin!” He found his subject matter when he reconnected with a friend who had told him 15 years earlier her harrowing story about procuring an abortion after the Ceausescu regime had made the procedure illegal.

“It brought back lots of memories and the frustration of hearing the story for the first time,” he says. It fit the mood he was looking for and could be the film he wanted to make for his generation, the children of the post-abortion-law baby boom who spent their college years under communism. “I don’t think there was a better story, a better subject, a better issue to speak to these people than this one.”

It has certainly struck a chord. The stark film, Mr. Mungui’s second, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the first time a Romanian film did so. Its controversial subject matter has not kept it from receiving plaudits from around the globe.

But then, Mr. Mungiu’s views on abortion aren’t without nuance. There were nearly 1 million abortions in Romania in 1990, the year it was made legal again, he notes. The numbers haven’t changed much since then.

“Not having the freedom and abusing this freedom for lack of knowledge can lead you in the same direction,” he says. “We are 18 years later and still abortion is the most widespread way of not having children. This is a problem. It proves no one has invested much energy in basic education.”

One thing that’s doing well in his country is the film industry, even though so many bright lights left during and shortly after the communist era. Mr. Mungiu wasn’t one of them.

“I wasn’t tempted to leave because this is how I am — very attached to my family, my house and my memories,” he says. And, he asks, why would he want to leave? He’s now in the enviable position of being assured financing for future films and traveling the world to promote them.

“I need my language and my stories for what I do,” he adds. That’s why although the director is now in great demand in Hollywood, it might be a while before he makes his English-language debut.

“I’m not into that kind of filmmaking with a local story that can be spoken in English,” he explains. “It’s very fake to me. And I’m not interested in directing someone else’s script.” He might, however, live abroad a bit to find a story he can tell in English.

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