By Monica Delgado
After Graduation (Bacalaureat, 2016), Cristi Mungiu returns to the screens in R.M.N. with a story that works as a social allegory about racism, classism and fascism, which is set in a Transylvanian commune. Describing the characteristics of the seed of fascism, or even more, the very nature of that social and political defect, is the emotional material with which the filmmaker builds the sensitivity of a racialized society -and that racializes- from within Europe and also as part of the periphery. More than talking about the origin of a type of fascism, Mungiu approaches a sociological thesis, by showing an x-ray of a multiethnic and diverse people, who have suffered exclusion throughout the history of Europe, and who are capable, also of exercising violence on others. In Mungiu’s fiction, there is no mercy in the act of ethnic contempt.
The plot of the film begins with the follow-up to Matthias (Marin Grigore), a worker who runs away from work in a slaughterhouse in Germany, after attacking a colleague who calls him a gypsy. He returns to his town in Transylvania, to return home, along with his ex-wife and son, and close to him his father Otto. There he resumes a relationship with Csilla, his ex-girlfriend. Although the film begins focused on the Matthias focus, little by little it turns towards the Csilla focus, since she is a personnel manager in a bread factory, and who becomes the bad guy in the film since the town rejects the Sri Lankan workers it has recruited.
The situation of the town changes from two perspectives according to Mungiu: from the arrival of Matthias, who embodies a whole gesture of toxic masculinity (he wants his young son not to be educated by his mother and encourages him to face his fears crudely, in addition to his harassing desire against Csilla), and from the hiring of the three foreign employees, who are seen as disturbing entities: “we are not going to eat bread made by those hands”, is one of the phrases that prevails as a claim to exclude them from that area in the middle of the Carpathians. These two thematic approaches (that of machismo and xenophobia) will allow the filmmaker to explore the ideology of this community, especially in a remarkable sequence shot, which reveals the democratic dynamics of the town, but subjected to the discourses of a nationalism exaggerated and demagogic.
This emblematic moment of the film, in which the inhabitants of the town collectively discuss the measures -like all democracy- marks the contemporary analogy, of how fascisms use the mechanisms of consensus and the echoes of the public sphere for the legitimacy of their proposals. Despite this culminating and successful moment for R.M.N., the long course of the main axis on xenophobia seems to depend on repetition and some hackneyed metaphors about human animality (based on the initial scenes of the slaughterhouse, or on the figure of the bear, as a symbol of attack and ferocity).
R.M.N. is a film with ups and downs, but with interest, since it is shown as an echo of a theme in current European cinema, around social and political criticism in contexts of emergence of ultra-right movements.
Direction: Cristian Mungiu
Screenplay: Cristian Mungiu
Photography: Tudor Vladimir Panduru
Cast: Marin Grigore, Judith State, Macrina Barladeanu, Orsolya Moldován, Rácz Endre, József Bíró, Ovidiu Crisan, Zoltán Deák, Cerasela Iosifescu, Andrei Finti, Bacs Miklos, Alin Panc, Victor Benderra
Production company: Les Films du Fleuve, Mobra Films Productions, Why Not Productions, Filmgate Films, Film I Väst, France 3 Cinéma
Romania, 125 min, 2022