Many films have been snubbed by the Oscars over the years, but for some film buffs, one of the biggest snubs in recent memory came earlier this month when a highly-acclaimed Romanian film about an illegal abortion was left off the short list—never mind the list of nominees—for the award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Certainly there was reason to believe that 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days would get the nod. The film, written and directed by Cristian Mungiu, was widely praised when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won the coveted Palme D'Or, the festival's highest honor, in May 2007; and in December, it went on to win Best Film and Best Director at the European Film Awards. But on the night that Hollywood rewards the films it likes best, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days won't even be a contender. Some say it is because the film, with its long takes, naturalistic lighting and handheld camerawork, has a demanding style. But some also say that it is because the film is uncommonly frank about the nature of abortion itself.
Abortion itself is not mentioned at all until about a third of the way into the film. The story starts with two female university students, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) and Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), making plans of some sort in their dorm. It is 1987, and the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu is only two years away from collapsing—but for now, the regime remains in place, and everyday transactions that people in the free world take for granted are tainted by suspicion and corruption. Among other things, people traffic in contraband goods, using foreign cigarettes as a form of bribery when hotel staff and others look at them a little too inquisitively.
So when we finally do find out ...