Mungiu’s somewhat belated take on xenophobia isn’t an all-powerful tale, but it smartly situates prevalent issues as a trickle-down effect of EU migrant policies in collision with chronic small-town racism.
Dir. Cristian Mungiu
2022 | Romania | Drama | 125 mins | 2.39:1 | Romanian, Hungarian, English & other languages
M18 (passed clean) for nudity and some mature content
Cast: Marin Grigore, Judith State, Macrina Barladeanu
Plot: Matthias returns to his multi-ethnic Transylvanian village just before Christmas. When a few new foreign workers are hired at the small factory that his ex-lover manages, the peace of the community is disturbed by underlying xenophobia.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d”Or (Cannes)
International Sales: Voodoo Films
Subject Matter: Moderate – Xenophobia; Community
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
A new film by Cristian Mungiu is always a good thing. Landing in the Cannes main competition where he previously won the Palme d’Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), R.M.N. is only his fifth feature in two decades.
One might be left perplexed by the title, which is marketing suicide 101, but after learning that it is the Romanian acronym for a type of MRI scan, it does kinda make intuitive sense. The film is, in hindsight, a ‘brain scan’ of contemporary Romania, situated within the microcosm of a small town.
The cancerous problem is xenophobia, a subject many European auteurs have tackled with varying degrees of success over the last decade, from Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan (2015) to Michael Haneke’s Happy End (2017).
“Everyone has their own place in the world as God above has ordained.”
In that sense, Mungiu’s film comes somewhat belated, and in all honesty, doesn’t quite contribute anything significant to the subject that we already know.
It is also not exactly an all-powerful tale, but having said all that, R.M.N. smartly portrays how larger EU migrant policies trickle all the way down to the ground level, in this case, a rural Romanian town with chronic racism.
A bakery employing foreign workers from Sri Lanka gets heat from the local community, some of whom are ironically Hungarian immigrants living in Romania. As the vitriol intensifies, best exemplified in an exceptional long take of a fiery town hall meeting, R.M.N. does morph into something more urgent.
Mungiu uses Shigeru Umebayashi’s ‘Yumeji’s Theme’ one too many times to evoke a sense of alienation and longing as individual characters struggle with their inner demons—because it is synonymous with Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000), it does feel rather odd listening to it in an East European setting.