958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

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ianthemovie
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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#101 Post by ianthemovie » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:17 pm

I just watched the footage from the Cannes press conference and was very surprised to hear Mungiu make several comments to the effect that he wanted audiences to come away from the film questioning the moral implications of abortion. He says that the close-up of the aborted fetus was meant to remind audiences that a fetus is "a life" as opposed to "a mass of cells" (words to that effect); that in his opinion the up-tick in abortions after their legalization in Romania was merely an act of political protest; and that one of the negative impacts of communism in Romania was a de-emphasis on religious education, which led to a moral looseness about abortion. (!) I don't even know where to begin with all of this, beyond being struck by how wrong an artist can be about his own work...4 Months certainly is a morally complex film but it seems best interpreted as a film about the limiting of individual freedoms under communism, specifically the policing of women's bodies, and lends itself much more readily to a "pro-choice" reading rather than one in which we're meant to cast judgment on the women or question their decision to get the abortion in the first place. If Mungiu was trying to get across some sort of pro-life message in this film I'd say he failed spectacularly, at least with most critics and audiences in the West, since I've never once heard anyone discuss this film on those terms...

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knives
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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#102 Post by knives » Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:07 pm

Perhaps because most audiences of the film are pro-choice and are bringing their own biases to the film?
Last edited by knives on Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#103 Post by MichaelB » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:09 pm

knives wrote:Perhaps because most audiences of the film are pro-life and are bringing their own biases to the film?
What are you basing this claim on? I’d be very very surprised if this was true of the film’s British audiences.

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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#104 Post by knives » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:11 pm

I mispoke, meant to write pro-choice there.

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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#105 Post by ianthemovie » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:39 pm

knives wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:07 pm
Perhaps because most audiences of the film are pro-choice and are bringing their own biases to the film?
You may be right, but I have a hard time even imagining what a convincing pro-life reading of this film would look like. I'd be curious to hear one.

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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#106 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:43 pm

I can see Mungiu's reasoning at least for that one scene. And then the rest of the movie is just, like, a fun thriller?

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knives
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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#107 Post by knives » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:59 pm

ianthemovie wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:39 pm
knives wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:07 pm
Perhaps because most audiences of the film are pro-choice and are bringing their own biases to the film?
You may be right, but I have a hard time even imagining what a convincing pro-life reading of this film would look like. I'd be curious to hear one.
It sounds like he's doing it right there to an extent. This reminds me of those Paul Morrissey films where his goal was a critique against certain low class individuals, but he was willing to imbue them with so much humanity that the films came across quite different from that intention. It's pretty easy to see this film as a critique of communism, I doubt there will be argument there, that uses the struggle of unwanted pregnancy as a spine. The film happens to come across as pro-choice because it is honest about those struggles and humanity, but with his comments in mind it is easy to see the intended critique being one which the reduction in morality by the social system would lead to a woman have sex when she was not ready to have kids and then to find abortion as the most reasonable option out of that problem. In short the film could serve a critique for a society which does not help unwed mothers to enjoy the idea of pregnancy.

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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#108 Post by ianthemovie » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:39 pm

knives wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:59 pm
The film happens to come across as pro-choice because it is honest about those struggles and humanity, but with his comments in mind it is easy to see the intended critique being one which the reduction in morality by the social system would lead to a woman have sex when she was not ready to have kids and then to find abortion as the most reasonable option out of that problem. In short the film could serve a critique for a society which does not help unwed mothers to enjoy the idea of pregnancy.
Possibly, yes, though if his intended goal was to give a society-wide portrait of degraded morality (in which the women are implicated along with everyone else) the film really fails, I think, because everything about the way it's structured, framed, etc. makes it virtually impossible not to sympathize and identify with the plight of Gabita and Otilia. (How Gabita got pregnant and her decision to terminate the pregnancy are, significantly, never discussed.) If there is any blame to be leveled at them it seems nearly insignificant by comparison to the monumental oppression they're shown to face. While the film certainly encourages us to confront abortion in a visceral way (ex. the close-up of the fetus) I just can't imagine someone coming away putting the blame on the women for seeking it out in the first place.

It's funny that you bring up Morrissey because he's another example of a filmmaker whose work seems to me successful in spite of his proposed aims. I remember hearing him speak about Flesh--a movie I enjoy very much--as a sober, serious Marxist critique about the commodification of the body under capitalism and thinking "that's what you were trying to get across?"

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knives
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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#109 Post by knives » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:50 pm

My point in the preceding portion of the paragraph is that the film isn't aiming to have its central polemic (communism was bad for Romania) get in the way of good characterization and good characterization does mean sympathy. I don't think what you quoted blames them, but rather shows them as a symptom of their society. A good society would not have them make the decisions they do.

The specific Morrissey example I was thinking of was Trash which he took as a very right wing critique of junkies who are a burden on society.

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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#110 Post by jwd5275 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:05 pm

knives wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:07 pm
Perhaps because most audiences of the film are pro-choice and are bringing their own biases to the film?
This.
Enough religious people (who are likely to share Mingui's stated perspective) found something profound in the film that it was voted to the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films list on Image magazine's Arts and Faith website.

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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#111 Post by ianthemovie » Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:41 pm

jwd5275 wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:05 pm
Enough religious people (who are likely to share Mingui's stated perspective) found something profound in the film that it was voted to the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films list on Image magazine's Arts and Faith website.
As far as religious publications go Image is non-denominational and fairly broad-minded (they currently have an article up criticizing the Methodist Church's denunciation of homosexuality) so I doubt their embrace of 4 Months was based on the grounds that it's some sort of a pro-life movie.
knives wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:50 pm
A good society would not have them make the decisions they do.
True, and I would agree the film lends itself to this interpretation in a very general way (communist Romania's repressive social structure is clearly the "villain" of the movie), but this is still a far cry from the film invoking the kinds of pro-life rhetoric ("a fetus is a life," etc.) that Mungiu voices during the Cannes Q&A. It's much to Mungiu's credit that if that is his personal position on the issue he mostly resisted the urge to push it in the film, since I maintain that it really doesn't come through in the film's current form and it's all the better for it.

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knives
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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#112 Post by knives » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:21 pm

That's the difference between good and bad filmmaking though, isn't it? It's a bit like how no one has ever treated The Eternal Jew as successful propaganda, but something like Ozu's There Was a Father is a major propaganda success story. The Kirk Cameron film of his statement would be awful, but a true artist can weave a complex tale that more effectively forces the audience to consider its points even if they never go beyond Communism was not good. The film obviously hasn't succeeded, in the west, as a pro-life film, but it did breed a discussion on how communism degraded people.

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Re: 958 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

#113 Post by jwd5275 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:03 am

ianthemovie wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:41 pm
As far as religious publications go Image is non-denominational and fairly broad-minded (they currently have an article up criticizing the Methodist Church's denunciation of homosexuality) so I doubt their embrace of 4 Months was based on the grounds that it's some sort of a pro-life movie.
Religion is being for mistaken politics here. It may be a a product of working in SF, but most religious people I know here have little problem with homosexuality (in fact defending gay marriage) while remaining pro-life. Despite being politically liberal, they will have an interpretation of the film much closer to Mingiu's stated intention.

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