“‘R.M.N.’ Movie Review: Cristian Mungiu Reveals Hidden Xenophobia| TIFF 2022.”
Though the film’s location is unique, the plot might take place anyplace where hatred thrives.
Cristian Mungiu’s previous film, 2016’s Graduation, was almost six years ago, but R.M.N. demonstrates he’s still an insightful filmmaker. The title is the Romanian abbreviation for “nuclear magnetic resonance,” a reference to a brain scan in the plot and the film’s theme. It’s a careful, sad look at how a struggling community may become hostile.
Matthias (Marin Grigore) returns to his Transylvanian hometown. He was working in Germany when he received an urgent call from his supervisor, who had treated him too badly. Ana (Macrina Bârlădeanu) cares for Matthias’ son while he’s away. In the first scene, the youngster sees something scary on the way to school. Matthias is confident he can convert him into his distorted notion of a man when he stops speaking. This family story unfolds against a backdrop of neighborhood fear.
Matthias wasn’t the only one to leave since the community has fallen on hard times and offers few prospects. Csilla (Judith State), a former lover of Matthias, manages one of the few places to work. The factory’s low-paying employment make it difficult for her to hire locals. She hires Sri Lankans to fill the void. A apparently commonplace recruiting decision drives the plot. Soon, this usually tranquil community reveals its ugly underbelly.
Without spoiling too much, the folks we’ve grown to know suddenly make sickeningly racist comments. What started as quiet discourse about a hatred for outsiders becomes hostile on social media and spreads across this insular population. Mungiu underlines that the terror comes from normal people the main protagonists encounter. It’s the man at a hockey game or neighborhood event. We’ve grown up with them. It portrays a dismal but ultimately true portrayal of those who blame when they lose. While contextual, it’s timeless.
The film’s climax is a community gathering that quickly spirals out of hand. Uncut, we hear a mob rile up and get more persuaded of their hostility. They’re so loud and inaccurate it would be funny if there wasn’t a feeling of dread. It pushes Matthias and Ana’s personal troubles to the side as we observe greater communal challenges. Both inside and outside, but not as people think.
It’s never spectacular, but the economic system is tilted against them all. Locals are well aware of this since all optimism for their futures has evaporated, leaving them with nothing to preserve. This makes it depressing but truthful to see them lash out at others who are suffering like them. Even when defeated, they embrace hate to feel powerful. As a mob drowns out the few voices of reason, the community’s mind is poisoned.
Matthias, the film’s protagonist, seems distant from these occurrences. While the ending doesn’t quite come together, his indignation at his own predicament and indifference to the injustice around him scream eloquently. It creates the cognitive dissonance that permits hatred to flourish. Selfishness ensures the cycle of exploitation will continue for every community’s complaint.
Matthias, assuming he can raise his kid individually, refuses to recognize the communal suffering. His desperation harms him and his community, but that’s the goal. His personal shortcomings get entangled with politically risky paranoia that may ruin individuals who fail to recognize how fear rots brains. The way the story’s central group unravels is subtle yet unnerving, revealing how the urgent diagnosis of their depravity may be too late.
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