Gems from Mungiu and Akin


4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS The stark Romanian drama, directed by Cristian Mungiu and set during the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, portrays a country mired in depression and paranoia where everyday life involves navigating through a cruel bureaucratic jungle. The story follows two college girls, frightened, scatterbrained Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), who seeks an abortion, and her steadfast roommate, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), who does all the difficult work in arranging the illegal and dangerous procedure. Otilia, who has her own problems, must abandon her friend in the shabby hotel in which the abortion is performed to attend a nightmarish dinner given by the family of her selfish, possessive boyfriend. With no cinematic frills and no music, “4 Months” is grimly realistic and unforgettable.

THE EDGE OF HEAVEN The destinies of six characters intersect in the compelling cross-cultural drama by the German-born Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin, whose 2004 film “Head-On” established him as a major international talent. They include a boorish Turkish widower living in Germany; a prostitute he shelters in exchange for conjugal favors but accidentally kills during a squabble; his son, a German professor who moves back to Istanbul and buys a bookstore; the prostitute’s daughter, a headstrong political zealot; the young German woman she falls madly in love with; and the German woman’s strait-laced mother, a former hippie (memorably portrayed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s muse, Hannah Schygulla). As the paths of these fascinating, complicated people cross (two go to jail), Mr. Akin regards them with unwavering compassion.

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