'R.M.N.' Review: Transylvanian Village Is Bloodthirsty For Xenophobia & Yelling About It
It's not spooky season so I don't think we'll be encountering any supernatural beings in Transylvania, though some of the people there definitely have a thirst for blood when it's unfamiliar blood. Awkwardly titled R.M.N. (same title used in Romania) arrives from writer-director Cristian Mungiu, setting its sights on a small village in the region. After getting fired, Matthias (Marin Grigore) returns from Germany to his home village which has little job prospects. Meanwhile there, his lover Csilla (Judith State) welcomes new South Asian employees to a food factory she manages. In the village that is mainly comprised of Hungarians like Csilla and Romanians, residents soon become hostile and discriminatory towards these newcomers, revealing ugly shades of xenophobia and ignorance baked into this multiethnic community.
Mungiu isn't holding back in his script when it comes to clearly expressing what he wants to talk about here, as exemplified in opening 15 minutes where Matthias' young son Rudi (Mark Edward Blenyesi) finds something horrific in the woods or when Matthias' firing is preceded by a xenophobic incident directed towards him. Mungiu's writing very much blurts out every possible thought which often works because the dialogue is so specific and so unforgivingly frightening that it demands an emotional response out of a viewer, notably a tidal wave of anger and second-hand embarrassment. State also as an actor gives us an emotional anchor as her character is in the minority fighting back the hate, nailing the range of different feelings that Csilla goes through when people aren't willing to listen to her.
Whenever we cut back to Matthias, the movie often loses most of the impact that it is going for. Partly this is because Grigore's blank face and eyes can't quite find truth in scenes like State is able to do, another part of it is because Mungiu doesn't find interesting colours within the character. Matthias and Grigore are introduced as a middle ground—using and abusing both sides for both selfish and unselfish reasons—but that arc never really collides with bigger themes in play here so it remains rather unresolved. Visual language stylised by contributions from cinematographer Tudor Vladimir Panduru, production designer Simone Paduretu and editor Mircea Olteanu also fail to inject the film with enough specificity in these gothic surroundings, leaving the central story dragging throughout its two-hour runtime before placing all bets on the predominantly striking, yet oddly staged final scene.
Smileys: Dialogue, Judith State
Frowneys: Story, pacing, Marin Grigore
In the rude for love.