The title, after all, is not some kind of code for “Romania”. But if that’s the case, it will fit: the formidable, disturbing, and intricately pessimistic “RMN” from director Christian Mungiu, perhaps the preeminent director of the Roman New Wave, is little less than a case of a downsized nation, a miniature analogy of an entire fractured society boiling from vowels Slack, where only the most difficult elements remain – bigotry, betrayals, an astonishing number of bears.
In discrete scenes of astonishing clarity and intensity, with the rigor of their construction masked by the spontaneity of their presentation, it is at first difficult to discern the connections between the different threads. Rudy (Mark Plinnessy), a young boy walking to school, encounters a scene in the woods that has been off the screen, but this instills in him such horror, that he runs home and stops talking. Matthias (Marin Gregor), a German slaughterhouse worker, responds to a racial insult with astonishing instant violence, and flees into the night. Csilla (Judith State), who runs a small bread factory, discusses with her boss her difficulties in attracting local bakers at their minimum wage.
The temptation is to liken this fragmented approach – by the way, away from the individual narrative dynamism of Mungiu winner of the Palme d’Or “4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days” and a “graduation” award as best director – to the building of the mosaic. But that does mean the movie’s story is an affinity story, as the pieces will eventually settle down to reveal some great unifying design, where the path is actually the opposite. “RMN” is a fast-moving shot of a deeply torn society flying in all directions, as if some bomb, which exploded years or perhaps even centuries ago, has never stopped exploding.
We find out that Matthias is Rudy’s father and Sheila’s ex lived. He returns to his rural hometown in Transylvania, and demands access to his son from his estranged wife Anna (Macarena Barlidiano). His father, a sheep farmer, Papa Otto (Andre Vinci) – perhaps just a father figure, since it is not clear if they are actually related – is sick, and Matthias will soon have to take him to the hospital for a brain scan called RMN. Meanwhile, Csilla, with whom Mathias has rekindled his old romance, needs to take five more jobs at the bakery in order to qualify for an EU grant, and switch to hiring migrant workers from Sri Lanka who want to work for the salary locals earn. Better paying jobs abroad, you won’t take. The arrival of the two men, and then the third, sparked a wave of racial indignation across the small town, bringing ugly feelings to the surface of this beautiful but increasingly sinister area.
This hardly scratches the surface of the issues raised by Mungiu’s clever, frightening, sometimes mysterious scenario. There is clearly the fact that society was torn apart long before the arrival of foreigners, and the unstable religious, ethnic, linguistic and cultural tensions, which may not interfere with daily coexistence, require little butter. surface. Matthias hails from a gypsy background that is referred to pejoratively many times, although any victim status may claim to be undermined by sexism, his contempt for Anna, and the way he communicates his love to his traumatized son through survival skills lessons and harsh sermons such as, “You must not You feel pity. Those who feel pity die first, I want you to die last.”
By far the most sympathetic character is Csilla, who is played by the State. Like a significant minority around these parts, it is ethnically Hungarian, speaking Hungarian when not communicating with Sri Lankan workers in English, or switching to Romanian as needed. (The English translations are color-coded according to the language being translated.) One scene takes place during a Lutheran service in German, but the city has Catholic and Orthodox congregations as well. A clever inference of class discontent, too, with Csilla’s cultured lifestyle – spending her evenings in her beautifully renovated home learning to play the “In the Mood For Love” theme on the cello – suggesting a level of privilege and higher education disadvantaged by most residents.
Sri Lankans aren’t the only outsiders: a French researcher is in town to monitor the bear population in the jungle. He is also the target of community outrage, as a representative of the conservation movement that has forced the closure of the nearby polluted mine, lost many local jobs and contributed to the problem of economic migration. This, in turn, gave rise to nationalism manifested in ceremonies and parades in which its followers don bear skins and helmets and pledge allegiance to Dacia – an ancient regional tribe valued for its resistance to the Romans and recently claimed as a symbol by some far-right factions.
This is a complex movie, so full of ideas that one might expect aesthetics to be less important, but “RMN” is absurdly handsome. Tudor Panduru’s photography makes great use of the widescreen maximum aspect ratio of 2.39:1 which obviously beautifies Transylvanian landscapes, but would be prohibitive for more talkative interiors, unless designed with such subtle choreography, framing, and attention background work. In fact, you have a feeling that, given Mungiu’s desire to show every aspect of every argument simultaneously, he’d shoot 360 degrees if the option were available. And during the main screening of the film — a 17-minute continuous shot of a crowded, distracted city hall meeting with multiple speakers and multiple planes of motion happening simultaneously — it almost achieves the effect of an equivalent warp.
Papa Otto’s scans appear on and browse Matthias’ phone, examining the collective growth of the old man’s brain chip by chip. It’s an easy metaphor for Mungiu’s approach with “RMN”, which is essentially a laser-tooled analysis of the affected Roman social organ where we can see the cancer of intolerance and inequality spreading layer by layer. It is not a surgery. Mungiu neither interferes nor judges. However, he feels hopeless – and nothing more than a bold, mysterious epilogue that gives way to about seven different interpretations, none of them perfect, and all of them intriguing. Perhaps the easiest read of Orsin’s semi-surrealist ending—which suggests that Christian Mungiu’s starkly obvious realism may be insufficient for the task of explaining the world’s present-day gloom and brokenness—is the age of human social structures. Passed. Perhaps it is time for the so-called civilization to come out, followed by a bear.