Matthias (Marin Grigoire) returns to his multi-ethnic Transylvanian village to become more involved in his young son Rudi's (Mark Blenyesi) education and to help the boy get over the shock of something he saw in the woods that has left him mute. He's also eager to reconnect with his former lover Csilla (Judith Slate, “Sieranevada”), the local bakery manager who has just sparked a nationalist furor by hiring Sri Lankan workers in "R.M.N."
Laura's Review: A-
Cristian Mungiu, one of the preeminent Romanian New Wave directors, returns with his strongest film since “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” put him on the global cinematic map. With “R.M.N.,” which refers to the process of scanning the human brain, Mungiu examines all of human society’s ills within the confines of one Transylvanian village climaxing with one extraordinary 17 minute single take of a citizens’ meeting organized by the local catholic priest (József Bíró).
In Matthias, Mungiu’s created a protagonist with set ideas about masculinity and foreigners who will eventually learn that his problems are being generated from within the environment which produced him. We meet the man being called a ‘lazy Gypsy’ for taking an emergency phone call at the German sheep slaughterhouse where he works. He head butts his accuser and hitchhikes home and immediately finds fault with the way his wife Ana (Macrina Barladeanu) is handling their son’s fear. Later, taking Rudi into the woods to show him how to set a trap and purify water tainted by mining refuse, Matthias cautions him that ‘people who feel pity are the first to die.’
Matthias asks several people about the possibility of a job but he’s only asked to kill the priest’s hog (animals, both wild and domesticated, are symbolic throughout) and offered a minimum wage baker’s position by Csilla which he, like everyone else in town, turns down. But when Csilla convinces bakery owner Mrs. Dénes (Orsolya Moldován, "Graduation") to apply for the EU grant which comes along with hiring foreigners, the town revolts, collectively finding a voice at Church where the Catholic Sri Lankans are denied entry, ranting about their black hands contaminating bread and imagined diseases Romanians have no immunity to. They’re even accused of stealing Papa Otto’s (Andrei Finti, "War Dogs") sheep, as it is known that the Sri Lankans do not eat pork.
We’ve met Mahinda (Amitha Jayasinghe) and Alick (Gihan Edirisinghe), two lovely, hard-working family men, and Csilla sends Matthias to pick up a third, Rauff (Nuwan Karunarathna), but as they gather to celebrate the Christmas holiday, a burning brick is hurled through their window and the living arrangements Csilla has arranged for them are abruptly canceled. When she takes them in, she’s attacked (and accused by the jealous Matthias) and forced to deal with the consequences when her boss must face economic reality as people stop buying her product.
Every grievance under the sun is aired during an uninterrupted 17 minute take of a village meeting where Matthias is rather humorously recorded as voting on both sides of the aisle. There is pandemic fear, environmentalism vs. economics and the hypocrisy of one man who complains that the EU exploits the Romanians’ foreign labor. Christian Nationalism is clearly in the air and, sadly, we could be witnessing a town meeting held in America’s bread basket or rust belt. The meeting stops in its tracks when an announcement is made about something found in the woods, a repeat of what Rudi saw (but we did not) in the film’s very first scene.
Mungiu keeps layering his film, introducing characters, some significant, others adding insight into those they are paired with, as he expands his themes. Cinematographer Tudor Vladimir Panduru (“Graduation”) employs a cool blue/gray/green palette, the occasional red object popping, holiday decorations belying good will toward men. The film’s last tracking shot will follow Matthias, armed with a shotgun, as he makes his way through the village square, the police station and Csilla’s house, a cacophony of barking dogs in the background, only to be confronted by something he’d dismissed as an old man’s delusions.
Robin's Review: B+
IFC Films opens "R.M.N." in select theaters on 4/28/23.