Cristian Mungiu speaks in RMN (interview)

The Romanian director of 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days goes deep into his disturbing new film, RMN.

A new Cristian Mungiu film is always a reason to celebrate. “RMN,” his first film since 2016’s “Graduation,” which won Best Director at Cannes, once again delves into the casual brutalities of Eastern Europe.

Here, the Romanian filmmaker “4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days” turns his camera back to Transylvania, here to the ethnic melting pot of a Transylvanian village, where Mátyás (Marin Grigore) returns home from Germany, looking for work and possibly to reconnect with him. ex, Csilla (Judith State). Cilla, meanwhile, is ridiculed by the entire town after hiring three Sri Lankan men to work at the bread factory where she is second in command, setting off a wave of prejudice throughout the village.

“Xenophobia is everywhere, but it was interesting because you’re a minority living in a community of people living in a majority community who have different languages, traditions, cultures and religions, and you’d normally think there should be more. they empathize with other people, which would be even a small minority, but on the contrary, they are not,” Mungiu told IndieWire.

The town is indeed made up of various immigrants, including Hungarian Csilla, who spends her nights drinking wine and teaching herself the string theme from Wong Kar Wai’s “In the Mood for Love” on the cello. Mungiu based the film on a xenophobic incident that took place in the Romanian village of Ditrău, where he felt that the ethnic identity of the Hungarian population was threatened by the introduction of foreigners into the workforce. The incident in January 2020 led to a petition signed by nearly 2,000 people to evict the Sri Lankans from the village.

“It is not about the Sri Lankans. It’s about the Roma population… I noticed that a lot of Romanians, Hungarians, and Easterners live and work abroad in Western countries, and they hate that they were treated the way we treated these people when they came,” he said. “I wondered, ‘Why do people act like this?’

Mungiu said he wrote the film three years ago based on internet research before going to Ditrău, where “I found the context of this lady who owns the bakery… She was happy to talk to us. He was very open, and after giving his opinion about what happened, he allowed us to talk to the workers… I started to investigate the people in the community involved in the decision, and I talked a little with a priest, and then I met with the mayor, but I found out that the things I imagined they are quite close to reality.”


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Since “Graduation” is also set in Transylvania, Mungiu said he wants the two films to destroy the connotations of Transylvania, which is actually Romania’s westernmost province. “What is Transylvania? Where is Dracula? They didn’t see Dracula there. And where is Romania, and where are the Gypsies? Why are we so unhappy to be called gypsies? Aren’t Roma and Romanians the same thing? (It indicates that the Indo-Aryan population spread throughout Europe in a diasporic manner.)

According to the director, “RMN” stands for nuclear magnetic resonance, a phenomenon that creates a pull between a strong magnetic field and a weak magnetic field. “It’s a reflex of this survival instinct. For years, we train our brains to recognize everyone else who is not part of our tribe as an enemy and not a friend,” he said. “Instead of seeing the things we have in common, we often see the things that are different. That was pretty much a starting point.”

The film culminates in 17 minutes of unbroken footage of a frenzied town meeting that overlaps at least 26 different parts of the speech – and is based on the actual town hall in Ditrău, which resulted in the dismissal of the Sri Lankan workers from the village.

This is an amazing feat of filmmaking, and at the same time a conscious one: “The choice comes from my style, which I impose on myself through filming. Before I started shooting, I knew that every second moment was captured in real time without any cuts,” said Mungiu. “It can be shorter or longer, but I don’t care about it. So I knew from the beginning that that scene had to be captured in one take. It’s not that difficult to imagine such a set-up.”



Courtesy of Mobra Films. Released by IFC Films.

Mungiu, who worked closely with a translator on the script to convey the different dialects and languages ​​that merge in the scene, said, “It’s a Tower of Babel where they understand each other better even if they’re speaking in a language other than what they agree on. the same language.” It took Mungiu about 25-2 weeks to finally get the scene right.

“RMN” ends with an oddly elliptical shot of the village’s actual bear population and a far-right faction of protesters dressing up in bear costumes as a form of protest against outsiders. It is not difficult to find a connection between this and the attire of the January 6 riots. Whether intentional or not, Mungiu is certainly open to the fact that his film is not just about Eastern Europe, but actually everywhere.

Mungiu said that after the film premiered at Cannes last year, “This American guy in the business said, ‘Wow, they’re going to like it in the States. No one will understand the end. But you have to tell them, if you don’t understand the ending, don’t worry about it. Unimportant.’ But it’s important to me. I’m one of those directors who really know what they want. It’s not that I want something very precise, but I have to admit that the final meaning of these bears at the end… it was kind of understandable, but it bothers me that another part should have been more clear, and that’s my fault, because it didn’t is.” What that ending is, we leave it to you to discover and decide.

However, Mungiu is used to polarizing reactions to his films. “I don’t know about this clash in cinema between mainstream and industry films and some kind of very radical, critical spirit that believes the truth lies in the most radical national cinema. I respect that. Cinema is really being reinvented by radical people, not mainstream people. In the United States I would describe it as very radical, but here (in Romania) I would describe it as very mainstream.”

“RMN” is now in limited release from IFC Films.

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