Monday 23 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - R.M.N. by Cristian Mungiu

When R.M.N. starts we meet Matthias (Marin Grigore), a Romanian immigrant in Germany just as he travels back to his home town in Transylvania after an acrimonious end of his employment where he received some xenophobic abuse. Yet there are problems there too as the local population has not taken kindly to some newly arrived Sri Lankan workers.

In the hands of so many others, R.M.N. could have turned into a dour, didactic lecture in which the right and wrong characters are easily identified but Cristian Mungiu is a storyteller like no others when it comes to making some socially conscious but compelling and never simplistic films.

A lot of issues are tackled through a gallery of characters: obviously immigration, racial identities but also ambivalence towards the E.U. and the uneasy alliance of some when it comes to ganging up against a perceived group of people they like even less. The bakery in town is run by two modern, forward looking business women who make the most of the opportunities offered by the European Union at the risk of upsetting the locals and this battle is at the heart of the story. Few films before have tackled xenophobia as a two way street, an endless cycle as part of a globalised world and while this does not yield any easy answers, this all feel a lot more realistic and complex as a result. 

An extended scene later in the film set in a town hall as a static shot and during which the locals argue about whether to allow the Sri-Lankan workers to stay (even though they took on jobs the locals did not want) is an incredible piece of cinema, turning what could be have been a yawn inducing lecture into a riveting political match in which frustrations and prejudices are laid bare but the director is careful to let the audience judge the validity of the points made. 

A taut, engrossing political drama with a (slightly baffling) surreal turn, RMN proves yet again that few can make this kind of cinema as well as Cristian Mungiu.

Review by Laurent de Alberti

Official Selection, In Competition

Star rating: 

R.M.N. Romania/France/Belgium/Sweden. Directed by Cristian Mungiu. Starring Marin Grigore, Judith State...

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