Romanian Cristian Mungiu is back at the Cannes Film Festival

Romanian Cristian Mungiu is back at the Cannes Film Festival

One of Eastern Europe’s most acclaimed filmmakers, Romania’s Cristian Mungiu, returns to the Cannes Film Festival with a grim tale of how little time it takes for people to turn against their neighbors .

His heartbreaking Ceausescu-era drama about illegal abortion “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” won the top prize at the world’s biggest film showcase in 2007.

Mungiu also won best screenplay for “Beyond the Hills” in 2012 and best director for “Graduation” in 2016.

His new film, ‘RMN’, sees him back in the running for the Palme d’Or, and the 54-year-old tells AFP he explores the crumbling hopes of a new era of peace after the end of the Cold War.

“I try to talk about human nature and the state of the world today and this feeling that we have today that things are not going in the right direction,” he said.

“Things are coming to an end and everyone is feeling this anxiety,” especially about the war raging in Ukraine, he said.

– ‘Capable of anything’ –

NMR is the Romanian abbreviation for an MRI which, according to Mungiu, when examining the brain can reveal fascinating secrets about how human beings are wired.

The film explores the anxieties of a multi-ethnic community in Transylvania, a historic crossroads of migrations and competing empires that has left Romanians, Hungarians and German speakers living side by side to this day.

It is inspired by a story widely covered by Romanian media in 2020, when a village in Transylvania rose up against the local bakery for hiring two Sri Lankans.

In the film, the foreign men are recruited into a bread factory dependent on EU subsidies and offering minimum wage jobs that have long gone unfilled because the pay was too low for the locals.

A manager is trying to deal with relocated Sri Lankans, who don’t speak any of the local languages ​​and struggle to integrate.

A violent attack leads to clashes with the police, the village priest and finally a town meeting in which hysterical fears about foreigners are expressed.

Mungiu said he aimed to mirror the “instincts and cruelty that run deep within us as human animals and see that people who are neighbors today are capable of anything tomorrow – rape , kill and torture someone else just because someone said I’m the enemy”.

– a movement –

The film won warm reviews, with The Guardian saying it was “seriously engaged in dysfunction and unhappiness in Europe that goes unreported and unacknowledged”.

American film website IndieWire called it another “moral thriller” by Mungiu that draws “increasingly at the tension between complex socio-economic forces and the simple human emotions they inspire”.

Mungiu is part of Romania’s new wave of filmmakers tracking the realities of post-communist transition who have won awards at international festivals over the past two decades.

He admitted at Cannes that those acclaimed films were far less popular at home.

“(Romanians) don’t really like what we do – they don’t really understand why anyone else likes it,” he said.

“But for us, it’s really important that we’ve managed to create a kind of movement that is now complex enough – there are quite diverse filmmakers speaking out.

“At some point, I think it will be recognized as something good that we have also done for Romanian culture.”

The Palme d’Or will be awarded on May 28. (AFP)

Darcy J. Skinner