Just over two hours, this absorbing psychological drama brings back the political bite and pulse-racing suspense of Mungiu’s highly acclaimed abortion thriller 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (which won the Palme D’Or in 2007). With undeniable technical skill Mungiu builds a fiercely objective observation of the dynamics of the collective and the way we perceive others.
Set somewhere in rural Transylvania, the story centres on Matthias, who returns from Germany after losing his job and tries to get involved in the education of his young son Rudi, who has stopped talking and is afraid to cross the forest and go to school by himself.
Spurned by his wife, Matthias reconnects with his ex-lover Csilla, who is now the manager of the local bakery. Csilla is about to employ 3 new bakers from Sri Lanka, as they are willing to work for low pay, but this move shakes the peace of the small community, provoking frustration, conflicts, and the re-emergence of xenophobic feelings. The conflict grows to a crescendo, drowning out the few hopes of a resolution.
Tense and compelling from start to finish, the narrative structure of this movie is an intriguing tangle of themes. Mungiu knows how to deal with a complex subject, developing a debate in which points are raised and studied, but never concluded.
Everything that happens leads somewhere interesting, such as the moment when Matthias leaves his precious hunting rifle in Csilla’s doorway, a symbol of his non-violent intentions; later the rifle will be brought back to him. It's also morally sophisticated for example in the way that the contrarian, Matthias is turned into a sympathetic character after first appearing as an unbalanced troublemaker.
R.M.N. ends on an ambiguous image which is devastating in its simplicity. The film is mesmerising to watch, and thought-provoking afterwards. Mungiu’s film makes its mark as one the best things on offer.
Rita di Santo is a film critic and reviewer.
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