By Peter J. Smith and John Jalsevac

CANNES, France, May 28, 2007 ( – Judges at the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival awarded the coveted Palm d’Or to what is being described as a “harrowing” film. The winning submission depicts the personal and moral consequences that a young woman and her friend face as they attempt to obtain an illegal abortion for the young woman while living in communist Romania.

Directed by Romanian director Cristian Mungiu and named for the age of the aborted baby, “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” [4 Luni, 3 Saptamini si 2 Zile], the film beat out 22 other contenders for the top prize.

The low-budget film is set during the final years of the brutal communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, and unfolds in just one day.  The cold colors, the dark topic, and the up-close and personal approach to story-telling make the film a bleak, but powerful work of art, say many of those who saw it at Cannes.

In the film the pregnant Gabita, with the help of her friend, Otilia, meet with the inhuman and manipulative abortionist Mr. Bebe. In what is said to be one of the most powerful scenes in the film, Mr. Bebe gives the girls a purposely graphic description of the abortion procedure.

Not content with taking life, however, Mr. Bebe exploits the situation further, demanding that Gabita and Otilia pay the terrible price of their personal dignity by exchanging sex for the abortion. According to one reviewer, the scene takes place “notably off camera,” showing Mungiu’s ability to instill “a sordid and heavy environment without yielding to demonstration.”

However Mungiu decides to bring his audience face-to-face with the disturbing reality of abortion by lingering upon the horrible and heart-rending image of the aborted baby in the bathtub. The camera then follows Otilia as she disposes of the baby.

“It makes a point,” the director told reporters at a press conference. “People should be aware of the consequences of their decisions.”

Since abortion had become so commonplace across Romania in the 1990s, continuing up to today, Mungiu said that he wanted women to consider deeply “the moral issue” of abortion rather than about “getting caught,” as was the primary concern under the communist regime. The communist regime was notoriously upsupportive of women who were pregnant with an unwanted child, or a child they feared they could not support. As a consequence many women were led to believe they had no option but to seek an illegal abortion. If caught, however, they often suffered serious consequences.

Now, however, says Mungiu, “getting caught” is not the preoccupying issue. Instead, he says, women can now take the time to consider abortion and all of its consequences.

“People have a tendency of avoiding and thinking about what they don’t like,” said Mungiu. “People have to think of their consequences.”

“4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” is the second film involving the abortion issue to win the highest award at a prestigious international film festival in the last year. “Bella,” which also, but with more subtlety, tackled the topic of abortion, was the winner of the People’s Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival.

In fact, at least on the superficial level, the two films have much in common. Much like the Romanian film, “Bella” was extremely low budget, and was praised for its intimacy and eschewal of Hollywood hyper-polish. Much of the camerawork in “Bella” is static, instead allowing the story of the film to speak for itself. “Bella,” much like “4 Months” also takes place over a 24 hour period, and centers around the difficult decision of a young pregnant woman about whether or not to abort her child.


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