This is a film that analyzes xenophobia in a small, multiethnic town in Transylvania in Romania. “R.M.N.” is apparently the Romanian acronym for MRI, so I guess Mungiu views this as an MRI of xenophobia is his native country. (Also, a character does get an MRI and MRI images play a role.)
As with any Mungiu film, it’s very well shot. There are some stunning shots of the mountains and everything is framed artfully. The way Mungiu shoots is my catnip, I always like shots where characters move in and out, I like changes of perspective and appreciate the different techniques.
There is one scene in which the townspeople vent their outrage in a meeting which is pretty astounding. Focused on the female lead, her boss, and the male lead sort of hiding behind them, it’s one take full of full-on Eastern European xenophobia and anti-Eu sentiment. It was extraordinarily uncomfortable to watch and, for me, the highlight of the film.
Though I found the film too long, I mostly liked the structure and the pacing. I liked how it took a really long time for things to boil over.
My biggest problem, aside from the length, is the bears. I am usually pretty good at figuring out symbolism and ambiguity but, for some reason I couldn’t figure it out here. Jenn had to point out that a particular scene was probably magic realism, which then led me to get more confused about the bears:
- are they real? are only some of them real?
- are they just representative of an ignored real threat while the town obsesses over fake threats?
- are they something else?
Because I couldn’t figure this out in my mind, I feel like I missed perhaps the key component of the film, especially for understanding that final shot. (If I got it, I’m sure I would have found it a great final shot.)
I’d say this is partially on me but I do think it’s on the filmmakers as well. Mungiu is usually quite transparent about his message. Here he is when it comes to the xenophobia but I can’t work out those damn bears.