Widely praised Romanian film not making waves at home

By Anca Paduraru

    Romanian director Cristian Mungiu won two more awards last weekend for his 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days film, which burst onto the international market in May when he captured the prestigious Palme d'Or from Cannes. But back home, Mungiu had to organize a caravan to cart his movie around the country.

    The European Film Academy gave the Best Picture and the Best Director awards to the Romanian entry at a ceremony Saturday in Berlin. The film also won the FIPRESCI award at Cannes in May, and the Best Film Award at the Stockholm Film Festival a couple of weeks ago

    Romania is a different story. The country of 22 million has three dozen cinema halls left standing after a 17-year transition from communism, in which the cinemas in nearly every commune were turned over to private hands for different uses.

    For this reason, Mungiu organized a caravan equipped with all the projection material needed to show his movie around the country. The film, about a young woman who seeks an illegal abortion in communist Romania and the girlfriend who helps her, ended up attracting a sizeable crowd - but still fell far short of the summer Hollywood blockbusters.

    The 4,3,2 movie - as it has been dubbed in Romania - ended 10 weeks of screening in mid-November during which it topped the charts for eight weeks. It attracted 71,000 viewers and $275,000 worth of tickets sold, according to box-office data collected by www.cinemagia.ro.

    For comparison, during 10 weeks last summer, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End topped the charts for nine of those weeks, attracting 94,000 viewers with $450,000 in tickets sold.

    Mungiu might take heart, however, in public reaction to the film. One item posted on a newspaper website said: "Beyond the topic of abortion during communism, the movie is about the subtle manipulation of human relationships, about the fine betrayal of as well as the unconditional commitment to a friendship, about the small everyday compromises which, for many, made communist times hard to bear. Heartfelt congratulations, Maestro!"