Xenophobia is a contagion in Cristian Mungiu’s tense and often mind-blowing “R.M.N.,” the Cannes-anointed Romanian filmmaker’s latest social thriller. His first film in the eight years since “Graduation,” “R.M.N.” premiered on the Croisette in competition last year but finally makes its way to U.S. theaters via IFC Films on April 28. Watch the trailer below.
“R.M.N.” takes us back to “Beyond the Hills” territory in immersing us in the casual brutalities of a remote corner of Eastern Europe, here an ethnic melting pot of a Transylvanian village to which Matthias (Marin Grigore) returns from Germany looking for work and to possibly reconnect with his ex, Csilla. Played by Judith State, she’s the second in command at the town’s local bread factory, which is already struggling to feed mouths that outnumber the supply. When she’s not toiling by day, by night she’s downing wine in her poky apartment and learning how to play the aching string theme to Wong Kar Wai’s “In the Mood for Love” off a YouTube tutorial.
A few days before Christmas, the recently unemployed Matthias knocks at her door looking for safe harbor, and ideally in her bed. Meanwhile, he’s trying to reconnect with his son Rudi (Mark Blenyesi), who’s stopped speaking ever since he saw something scary in the woods. Other unresolved issues plague Matthias’ return, including his aging father. He’s there for Csilla, who’s met by town-wide derision after she hires three Sri Lankan men to help out at the factory, setting off a tripwire of prejudices that blow up the whole town. Meanwhile, there’s that bear population in the woods.
Mungiu has made his strongest film since “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” shook Cannes and won the Palme d’Or in 2007 (but was pathetically not nominated for the Best International Feature Oscar, leading to the creation of the category’s executive committee). According to the director, “R.M.N.” is an acronym for nuclear magnetic resonance, a phenomenon involving a push-pull between a strong magnetic field and a weak one. (Or something.) The film boasts a 17-minute long take during a fractious town meeting that includes at least 26 different speaking parts overlapping each other. Of course, Mungiu makes this singularly gripping.
Read IndieWire’s “R.M.N.” review here.
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