A film group I belong to went to see 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days last Sunday. To say that it’s a cheerless film would be understating things significantly; our next film will be The Counterfeiters, taking place in a Nazi concentration camp, and I’m guessing it’ll be less grim than this one was.
The setup is simple: it’s 1987 in Romania, Gabita is pregnant, and she arranges an abortion with the help of her college roommate, Otilia. An illegal abortion, as they all were in Ceauşescu’s Romania.
The story is not so simple, though. It’s less a story of Gabita and the abortion than it is a story of Otilia, her relationship with her friend, the affect this has on her romantic relationship, and how she copes with the whole situation. It’s a moving story, and it’s not easy to watch.
The film won the Palme d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, and it’s been nominated for a Golden Globe for best foreign language film.
We had an interesting discussion after the movie, which hit on a topic that’s come up in these pages before. Otilia does a great deal for her friend, taking care of most of the setup and risking arrest and prison along with her. The women arrange with a man, Bebe, for the abortion, and they get a hotel room. Otilia brings the man to the room, where Gabita is waiting. They discuss the procedure, and because of the lateness — the pregnancy is about halfway to term — it turns out that Bebe wants more money than they have.
He says he’ll leave and come back when they have more money, but they’ve already paid for the room, Gabita doesn’t want to wait yet longer, and they’re scared — partly because Gabita wants to get it over with and partly because they stand to go to prison for what they’re doing.
And Bebe makes it clear that he’ll do it for the money they have if they both have sex with him. “Which one of you will go first?”, he says.
When we talked about the movie afterward, and I said that the roommate did a lot for her friend, I added that Otilia “even got raped for her.”
A man in the group said that she didn’t get raped; it wasn’t rape because she consented.
No, I said, that was rape. There wasn’t consent to it at all. They were clearly coerced, backed into a corner with no real option, and just because a woman isn’t kicking and screaming doesn’t mean she consented.
He insisted that it wasn’t rape. The women at the table universally agreed that it was, and one said that any woman would call it rape.
The guy persisted in saying that it wasn’t, adding that, if anything, it was prostitution, giving Bebe sex in exchange for a service.
At which point I said, “OK, you are now officially a pig.”
And we see another example of one of the huge problems we have with stopping rape: too, too often, men will make excuses for why “it’s not rape.” If she wasn’t “asking for it” or “lying”, then she “consented”.
So, here’s the request for my readers: If you see this film, make note of that scene, from where they start discussing how far along the pregnancy is. And post a comment back here, telling me whether you consider that the women were raped or not.
I promise I won’t call you a pig, however you respond (but, um, you really do have to see the movie to qualify for that).