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Review by Laura G. Brown





[]  In 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a desperate college girl and her resourceful friend must procure an illegal abortion during the last days of Ceaucescu's Communist regime in Romania. You’re not likely to see a clearer indictment of life under totalitarianism than in this engaging story, which won top prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

All events occur during one day, beginning with the pregnant Gabita and her smart, take-charge friend Otilia awaking in their cramped dorm room, as director Cristian Mungiu follows their plight in documentary fashion.

Remember the army recruiting slogan, We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day? The U.S. Army has nothing over your average Eastern bloc citizen of 1987. One's daily struggle to survive requires a Rube Goldberg setup of black market negotiations and deals. It's exasperating to watch, much less going through on a daily basis. Add in an abortion—punishable by jail time—and the task becomes Herculean. Otilia implacably trades for soap and cigarettes, but also borrows money and books a hotel room while Gabita looks on, muted and immobile.

One of the glaring deficits of Romanians' daily lives as shown in the film is the absence of privacy. Bureaucrats dully demand to know your business at every turn. IDs are constantly checked. A general "it's not my job, it’s not my concern" attitude prevails.

Booking the hotel room for the abortion proves to be a huge stumbling block. A series of snafus leads to a devastating sequence between the two friends and the abortion "doctor." This syringe-for-hire might be no less creepy that your average neighbor but for the fact that state mandates have made him a criminal. He’s equal to the label, calculatedly playing on the girls’ fears about the late state of Gabita’s pregnancy.



Libertarians will cringe at the debasing situations these women and their countrymen endure under a dictatorship posing as an egalitarian society. Some citizens of this Orwellian warren are more equal than others. Otilia goes to her boyfriend’s family party, where we see a well-dressed, animated group laugh, toast, and bemoan the travails of the professional class.

You too can have a slightly larger apartment and drink wine in crystal stemware if you play the angles of the Communist system. Otilia’s worry for her friend, still back at the hotel, stretches the social veneer to the breaking point as the parents grill Otilia about her family connections.

This director knows how to distill tension from real-life events, as when Otilia handles the last grim detail of Gabita’s ordeal. Never have empty streets, random noises, or dark corners seemed so threatening. Without intending to, the film makes an excellent case for clean, safe abortions, and could encourage some enlightened discussion on this issue which has divided libertarians.



Laura G. Brown is a teacher and writer living in San Gabriel, CA.

She is a veteran candidate for State Assembly on the Libertarian Party of California.

Her email: lauragbrown at sbcglobal dot net


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