Moody and always intriguing, Cristian Mungiu’s “R.M.N.” is a tense parable focusing on social unrest and racist intolerance in Romania.
Written by Mungiu, this a film that focuses on those who set out to hate almost any identity that is different from theirs. These are communities in racial crisis.
Matthias (Marin Grigore), a German-Romanian man who quits his job in a slaughterhouse, after a superior calls him a “lazy gypsy.” The business’s flocks of sheep read as a foreshadowing symbol of things to come.
Matthias returns to the Transylvanian village where his son, Rudi (Mark Blenyesi), is being raised by the mother Ana (Macrina Bârlădeanu). He wants to be more involved in his son’s upbringing, going so far as to question Ana’s parenting methods.
Upon arrival, he finds their son is afraid to walk to school by himself. Something traumatized the boy to the point where he won’t speak about anything. Matthias decides to “man up” his son by taking Rudi hunting and trying to teach him how to fight.
Matthias is a character not immediately likable. The man is filled with the wrong kind of grit and carries a rage inside him which even he might not understand. At times he is a walking powder keg on the edge of exploding. Marin Grigore’s performance is quite effective as he straddles many emotional lines, earning both anger and sympathy from the audience.
Along with Matthias’s need to continuously assert his manly authority, it seems that his relationship to ex-girlfriend Csilla (Judith State, in the performance of the film) broke up his marriage. As he tries to revive the relationship with Csilla, Matthias finds she cannot commit, as her business is having trouble.
When Csilla hires Alick (Gihan Edirisinghe) and Mahinda (Amitha Jayasinghe), two immigrants from Sri Lanka, to work in her bakery, (not so) pent-up racism begins to boil within the community.
Csilla applied for European funding for her bakery. As it seems the people of her community don’t want to work there, Csilla had to take on more workers in order to receive more money.
Alick and Mahinda attend a service in the town’s church. The moment becomes many things, first and foremost a representation of the hypocrisy of religion.
Angered that the two migrant workers have taken jobs from the community’s citizens, the townsfolk stop shopping at the bakery.
While set in Romania, this tale is universal. Intolerance is bred into humanity. A pessimistic view, perhaps, but Mungiu takes a rightfully cynical look at the collective hatred born of religious congregations.
The film’s sharpest comment comes in the irony that the community is filled with Germans, Romanians, and Hungarians. Multiethnic to be sure, the community is bound together by their mutual xenophobia.
In a powerful moment shot in one unbroken take, the village’s ugly prejudice fills the frame. Frustrated, the people file into a community center to spew disgusting vitriol regarding immigrants. Their church, the home of worship to a living god, is too small to contain their hatred.
In dealing with such uninviting subject matter, Tudor Vladimir Panduru’s cinematography keeps things visually bleak. The cold of the landscape is quite palpable and the snowy exteriors enhance the visual compositions.
While Mungiu’s pointed look at the darker intricacies of religious fanaticism, humanity, and his own country work very well for a long time, it is the film’s unearthly final act that causes the director’s well-laid ground to become unstable.
I cannot speak to what happens, but an allegorical conflict and the way Mungiu chooses to close his film fails to hit as strongly as the rest of the picture.
Christian Mungiu wants his audience to bear witness to the layers of hypocrisy in immigrants disliking immigrants, but never asks us to judge his main characters.
“R.M.N.” has the right visual language to tell its story and makes valid and important observations. This is a film with a sharp dramatic edge that is occasionally dulled by too many different stylistic ideas.
Still, Christian Mungiu has made an impactful and interesting piece of cinema.