Running Time: 108 minutes
Rated: Rated MA 15+ (strong themes)
A completely overwhelming film that is gruelling to sit through. It is strikingly made and performed. It won the Cannes Film Festival's Palme D'Or.
In 2005, the Romanians gave the world an emotionally draining picture of dying and hospital indifference in The Death of Mr Lazarescu. (This film has the same Cinematographer and Editor/Sound Designer). Now we are offered an equally emotionally draining picture of an illegal abortion. The reality and facts are laid before us for our intellectual and emotional response without a didactic moralising. However, audiences are forced to think about their moral stances. Those who are in favour will be challenged to look at the issues and their consequences. In fact, the title does seem to make a moral statement about life. The setting is 1987.
This is the response of a male viewer. We need to hear the impact on a female audience, especially concerning the abortion scenes and the talk and behaviour of the abortionist, a man.
The structure of the film (which takes place during one winter day) is a series of chapters in the life of two university roommates, Gabita who is pregnant and her friend Otilia. Laura Vasiliu and, especially, Anamaria Marinca as Otilia are totally real.
We seem to spend a lot of initial time watching Gabita pack and Otilia doing the rounds of the dorm. It is fly on a wall observation of people. We are not sure what the issue is at this stage but it is not a difficult guess. Then Otilia books a hotel room. She meets the abortionist and a palpably excruciating discussion ensues with the man pulling no punches in description nor in the price from both women he demands. We look objectively at the procedure.
Surprisingly one of the best dinner sequences in film follows as Otilia goes to her boyfriend's mother's birthday party. One long take with her at the centre, furious and anxious, listening to the older generation describe life under Communist rule (good old days). We are not spared the aftermath of the abortion and a nightmarish episode as Otilia tries to dispose of the foetus.
Totally disturbing and challenging, brilliantly made.
Kojo Pictures Out 18th October
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.