A few days before Christmas, Matthias leaves his job in Germany and returns to his multi-ethnic Transylvanian village. He wants to be more involved in raising his son Rudi, who he feels is spending too much time with his mother Ana, and help the boy resolve his hidden fears. Matthias is also preoccupied with his elderly father, and longing to see his former lover Csilla. When a small food factory managed by Csilla herself hires some new workers from Sri Lanka, peace is disturbed in this seemingly harmonious community. Frustrations, conflict and various passions erupt from under the thin veneer of peace and understanding. One might think that a community that itself consists of the descendants of immigrants and constitutes a minority within the Romanian nation, a community with a different language, customs, culture and religion, might show more empathy to other minorities, but the opposite proves to be true. The story culminates during a twenty-minute scene filmed in one shot – a town meeting taking place in a church, with centuries-old prejudices and divides coming to light – nearly as grotesquely as in Romanian director Radu Jude’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn. This naturalist drama, filmed through the author’s calm and collected observational approach, once again exposes the careless brutality of Eastern Europe. However, it also becomes an allegory for the bigotry of the European Union, whose workers keep leaving the periphery and moving to the center in search of their own European dream, while their places are taken by underpaid third-world workers. Because, as the Let3 song says, the East is always striving to be like the West (“Jer istok se trudi da kao zapad bude”). The periphery blindly follows the center, although it usually takes the brunt of the negative effects of collective policies. The state of the nation is heated, obtuse and disgustingly racist, but the politicians somehow always shirk their responsibility. (DP)
This film was inspired by a real-life incident from 2020, when nearly 2000 locals from the Transylvanian village Ditrău signed a petition to expel Sri Lankan workers from their village. How can Romanians, Hungarians and Eastern Europeans who work in Western countries and hate the way they’re being treated there afford the same treatment to the workers who come to their home countries in search of a better life? Why do people act this way? For Mungiu, this question may be found in an MRI – for thousands of years, our brains have been shaped to see everyone outside of our “tribe” as the enemy. Instead of seeing all the things we have in common, we focus on our differences.
Awards and festivals:
Cannes Film Festival (2022) – world premiere, nominated for the Palme d’Or; Chicago IFF – nominated for a Gold Hugo; Crested Butte Film Festival (2022) – winning film; Palić European Film Festival (2022) – best film; Dublin IFF (2022) – best screenplay
Cristian Mungiu is a Romanian filmmaker born in 1968 in Iași. After graduating with a degree in English language and literature, he worked as a teacher and journalist. Afterwards, he enrolled in the University of Film in Bucharest and made several short films. His first feature film, Occident, premiered in Cannes as part of the Directors’ Fortnight and enjoyed great success in Romania. His second feature film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) won a Palm d’Or and many other international awards, including Best Film and Best Director at the European Film Awards. His fifth feature film Graduation won the award for Best Director in Cannes. Other films: Tales from the Golden Age, Beyond the Hills