Cinema: Cristian Mungiu X-rays the populism that is eating away at Europe

(AFP) – A village in Transylvania as an explosive laboratory of populism: Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu, winner of a Palme d’Or in 2007, hopes with “RMN”, in theaters on Wednesday, to open the eyes of Europeans to this evil which gnaws them.

“I hope people will understand that I’m talking about them,” the director told AFP in May, fifteen years after “4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days”, a punchy film on the right to life. abortion which had earned him the supreme distinction on the Croisette.

In this new film, which was in competition at Cannes this year, he wants to be very political again, but by embracing even more broadly.

Its title, “RMN”, refers to the Romanian acronym for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Mungiu is working to probe the ins and outs of populism, an evil that would have metastasized to this village. still steeped in tradition, on the borders of Europe.

“I hope that (the spectators) will not easily escape their responsibilities, that they will not say to themselves: + This takes place in a distant, wild land +. I am afraid that is not the case” , continued during an interview at the Cannes Film Festival, the man who also won a director’s award six years ago for “Baccalauréat”, on endemic corruption.

The action takes place a few days before Christmas, in a village in Transylvania, a microcosm where communities have lived side by side for centuries: Romanian, Hungarian or German are spoken there, testimony to a long and tormented history.

The Roma themselves have disappeared from the town, driven out by the inhabitants and the force of prejudice. But new “damned of the Earth” have appeared, three Sri Lankans who have been brought to work in the local industrial bakery, the Romanians having all left to rent their arms in the west.

Against a background of precariousness, prejudices and traditions, conflicts between communities will gradually resurface, threatening to ruin the peace of this small community.

– “Nothing rational” –

“Through small events, in small villages, I try to talk about human nature and the state of the world today, and this feeling that we have that things are not going in the right direction” , underlined the director, who affirms not “to be able to be optimistic” on the future.

“Human nature does not change like that… It only takes 24 hours to identify an enemy (…) and release the animal instincts that are within us. People who are neighbors are capable, tomorrow, of raping, torturing and kill,” he continued.

The film’s moment of bravery is a quarter-hour shot in the town hall, a public meeting in which the fate of Sri Lankan workers is to be decided. About twenty people will speak, competing with hate and prejudice, while their opponents, who try to preach tolerance, are unable to make themselves heard, and sometimes entangled in their contradictions. Like a concentrate of the debates that agitate Europe.

A device that is strikingly reminiscent of another noted Romanian film, “Bad Luck and Looning Porn”, which won Radu Jude the Golden Bear in Berlin in 2020, and also tackled issues of populism, and the difficulty of overcoming prejudices.

“Political correctness does not change people’s beliefs, it just prevents them from expressing them,” argued Cristian Mungiu. “In the speeches (populists, editor’s note), there is nothing rational. It is a mixture of few facts with a lot of propaganda”.

“You don’t need arguments to believe. You believe what you believe and it’s very hard to change that,” he added. Can cinema do anything about it? “I don’t have a solution and it’s not up to me to find one.”

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Cinema: Cristian Mungiu X-rays the populism that is eating away at Europe