– CANNES 2022: Cristian Mungiu weaves a masterful film, all in compound finesse, on a small village in Transylvania, a reflection of contemporary individual and European ills and choices
Judith State and Marin Grigore in NMR
“Beware of wild animals”. A glimpse of the door of a shop in the small village of Transylvania passed through a magnifying glass or even better through nuclear magnetic resonance, as the title indicates, NMR [+lire aussi :
fiche film] (unveiled in competition at the 75th Cannes Film Festival), of the new film by the great Romanian director Christian Mungiu (more honored on the Croisette with the Palme d’Or in 2007, an instructor award in 2016, screenplay and female interpretation awards in 2012), the warning is of course not insignificant and evokes as much, if not more, people from the region, even Europeans in a broad sense. A microcosm that the filmmaker explores with exceptional cinematic mastery.
Because Transylvania with its multilingual character (we speak Romanian there, but also a lot of Hungarian and a little German, all without forgetting the recently expelled gypsies) and its problems that resonate on the entire Old Continent scale (economic migration empties the surroundings) and attraction dependence on EU aid superimposed on very deeply rooted local traditions) is a perfect example of the fine line that separates the sense of collective belonging (the concert and the choir of beings) and the crystallization of fear of the other, this stranger from other places on which we project our fantasies when he is merely a reflection of ourselves. This suggests Cristian Mungiu all the contrasting facets and ambiguous behaviors by choosing the rejection of simplification and with the intention of purifying water to at least make it drinkable when it has been heavily polluted.
The two main threads in the story are Matthias (Marin Grigore) who abruptly left his job in Germany to return to the village where his wife Ana (Macrina Bârladeanu) and her dumb eight-year-old son, and Csilla (Judith stat) who runs a small bakery factory that is struggling to recruit (salaries are low) and very quickly has to find five new employees to qualify for European assistance. The two main characters are longtime lovers, and it’s no secret in this small community where everyone knows each other. But now three Sri Lankan workers are arriving, and controversy is heating up in an environment where everyone has a rifle within reach and where children are learning that the essentials are “fire, water, know how to fight and have no pity.”
The whole subtle art of Cristian Mungius is to introduce and really bring to life a large number of secondary characters (the priest, the mayor, Ana’s family, Matthias’ father, factory workers, leaders, opponents of migrants, etc.) forming a very complete picture of the microcosm (including especially exceptional group scenes), which could be almost documentary if the filmmaker did not also have the talent to know how to examine privacy with great sensitivity (two-way love, family relationships, transmission, values or tolerance, etc.). Add to that a very thoughtful forest setting with valley, hills, half-frozen lake, giant abandoned mines, church masses and small concerts more or less animated in the atmosphere of the year-end festivities. photography of Tudor Vladimir Panduruand it is a whole perfect, fascinating and intelligent fresco that takes shape around the crucial question of the collective facing its impulses of life and death.
Produced by Mobra Film, NMR was co-produced by Why Not Productions, Les Films du Fleuve, France 3 Cinema, Filmgate Films, Film I Väst and Wild Bunch, which also handles international sales.