No, and no.Metropolisforever_2 wrote:There is no real observation about anything, and no character development - neither of these girls learn anything, and the viewer doesn't either. The film is merely a failed attempt at turning a small-time drama (abortions were common in this period, even though they were illegal) into something that is apparently supposed to characterize a whole era in a country's history.
Apparently, all you have to do is show a few bad things and - viola! - you have yourself a masterpiece. If you take a camera into modern-day Romania, you will still find many of the things you saw in this movie. A lot of the things still look the same. However, there was (and is) much good about Romania - which, of course, you won't see here. Bring the French a movie showing a few bad things about Romania, and they'll feel much better about themselves. This movie has a lot of historical inaccuracies, also.
MichaelB has already suggested that Ottilia is changed by the experience, and I'll argue that claim more forcefully. The most obvious evidence, IMO, is that the experience causes her to rethink her relationship with her boyfriend. Again, Mungiu doesn't give us clear resolution--does she leave him or not?--but Ottilia is clearly reflecting on these events, what they tell her about her boyfriend, what they tell her about her own naivete. It's simply written all over Anamaria Marinca's face; no need for expository dialogue, and in fact she forecloses that possibility at the end by telling Gabita not to speak of it again. This is partly b/c there's such a gulf in the understanding gained by the two women, partly b/c as the street-smart one, Ottilia wants to make sure Gabita doesn't get them in trouble by doing something profoundly stupid and immature. After all, Gabby's got a track record at this point.
(While I'm at it, Anamaria Marinca's unease during the dinner scene with her boyfriend, the way she reacts to the phone ringing in the hall, was just tremendous.)
I don't think the film is claiming that abortions were common. Gabita knows someone who had one, but that's about it. The film is clearly less about abortion than totalitarianism. The elements of a panoptic state are everywhere, esp. regarding the IDs at the hotel desk. (Interestingly, abortion was outlawed in Romania in the late 60s, so the two women could very well owe their existence to the abortion ban.) The secrecy, paranoia, and yes, the way that Don Bebe takes advantage of them characterize the era very well. This is hardly a "failed attempt at turning a small-time drama" into a characterization of the country as a whole; it's highly successful in that regard.
As to your second point: Romania has changed a great deal since then. To take one example, the windows in their dorm room were horribly insulated, and after the fall of communism, just about everybody replaced them. Mungiu had to go way out into the countryside to find a building that still had those old windows. Of course the movie has historical inaccuracies--I watched it with a good friend who happens to be Romanian, and she pointed several of them out--but the crew also did a lot to hide them, and there are numerous historical details that non-Romanians simply won't get without a native to explain them.
That said, you don't have to be Romanian to find the movie compelling. The scene where Don Bebe negotiates a higher, ahem, "price" for his services is very skillfully done, the conversation slowly coming around to what he actually wants. (Incidentally, Gabita's surname--Dragut--means "nice" in Romanian, so when Don Bebe says "You're nice, I'm nice, can't we all be nice?", he's playing on that). The way it explodes into naked threats--accentuated by the rigorous camerawork--was startling, and even as you know what's happening while Gabita's waiting in the bathroom, it's again shocking when Ottilia storms in half-naked. Although I already mentioned it, the dinner scene is highly compelling, and Ottilia's tension, esp. as the phone rings (barely audibly), is masterfully done. At this scene of a banal birthday celebration, the tension between the drunken conversation (and the unintended insults to Ottilia's background), Ottilia's personal drama, the boyfriend's unease b/c of her distance, Ottilia's stifled anger at being insulted, and the way she interprets her boyfriend's failure to come to her defense, is phenomenal; everything in that scene just comes together.
You don't have to like the film, metropolisforever, and nobody's saying that you do. However, the film's failure to show the positive aspects of the late Ceaucescu era is hardly a failing--are you criticizing the movie for not being sunny enough? That seems to be the thrust of the passage of yours that I've highlighted with italics. If so, that speaks much more to your own ideological biases than to the film itself.