Most people just want to make a buck and live in peace. The statement is socioeconomics in its most basic and ideal form, stripped away of any complications. The sentiment first echoed in the walls of a classroom many years ago and has reverberated in my head ever since. The ideology behind the simple approach is humble, but when scanned and dissected in greater detail, an otherwise optimistic outlook makes way for an underlying disease at the heart of human motivations. R.M.N. (the title is a Romanian acronym for nuclear magnetic resonance) opens with three distinct scenes that eventually converge to reveal the relationship between them. However, this convergence is a farce as they result in being preludes to intense personal division.

A boy wanders through the forest when his attention is caught by something terrifying to him placed out of frame. A worker at a slaughterhouse quits his job after being called a racial slur, causing him to headbutt his superior. Two women struggle to find the necessary employees that will qualify their small business for financial aid available via the European Union.

Director Cristian Mungiu stages his film in his home country of Romania. Mungiu is at the head of the Romanian New Wave Cinema film movement which often focuses on the socioeconomic situation of the country, both prior to and after the rise and fall of communism in the region. R.M.N. is not a history lesson per se, but the country’s history as well as Europe’s relationship and perspective on the European Union are essential to the story.

Newly unemployed Matthias (Marin Grigore) returns home to a peaceful, agreeable Transylvanian town. His main concern is his son Rudi (Mark Edward Blenyesi) the boy who experienced something terrifying in the forest. Matthias feels the boy has been excessively coddled by his mother Ana (Macrina Barladeanu) and vows to make sure his son doesn’t grow up to be a “sissy”.

Csilla (Judith State) is the manager of the local bread factory that is struggling to meet the minimum employee workforce to qualify for European Union financial aid. She is also Matthias’ ex-lover, a fact that speaks to the larger issues associated with the European continent’s relationship with itself.

RMN R.M.N. Cristian Mungiu

The plight of the small town is familiar. Few jobs are readily available and those who are able and willing to work leave the rural settings in favor of greater opportunities and better pay in favor of working for minimum wage in a bread factory. Matthias is offered a job at the factory but refuses, presumably because his ego would be hurt.

The lack of workers leads Csilla to hire Sri Lankan immigrants. Even though the village (left nameless in the movie) is comprised of people from different ethnicities, welcoming these new people does not sit well with them. This results in an emergency town hall meeting to discuss how to solve the immigration problem. Mungiu sets down the camera for an entire 17 minutes during the meeting, focusing on the crowd from a standstill and allowing for the underlying tensions, fears, and resentment to explode into a passionate display of harrowing xenophobia.

The violence in the words is intense, the hypocrisy in their hearts is on full display, the metaphorical rape of acceptance is sickening. The main characters embody the different scenarios in play. The actors in charge of personifying them are superb, in particular State as Csilla.

Matthias was an immigrant worker who was racially abused, making his indifference towards people in similar situations disturbing. He is a cog in the machinery of conformity, displaying troubling chauvinist tendencies that impede true personal and social progress.

Csilla is the ideal of unity. She is the only sympathetic character in this fractured town. She embodies progress and the vision of a united Europe. Her multi-ethnic upbringing has blessed her with a worldly view and an unparalleled education. (She speaks multiple languages throughout). Her elegance and refinement are jarringly distinct from her traditional yet crude surroundings. For example, while the village musicians assemble to practice the classic Brahms Hungarian Rhapsody, Csilla sits alone at home with her cello practicing “In the Mood for Love”. Rudi might have seen the true threats early on while the rest of the town was blinded by pent-up hate.

Cristian Mungiu has crafted a true masterpiece. Despite the complicated issues that boil over into bombasts, the mood overall is subtle and discreet. The winter setting (beautifully shot by Tudor Vladimir Panduru) adds more to the superficial calmness that camouflages the underlying turmoil. Mungiu takes special care to not be judgmental, instead allowing audiences to witness the curtains spectacularly unfurl.

RMN R.M.N. Cristian Mungiu

Commentary on the socioeconomic status of Europe may become lost in translation to overseas audiences. R.M.N. takes a deep dive into exploring key problems that have shaped and continue to shape Europe’s history and map. However, the issues presented are not exclusive to the Old World. The movie’s pessimistic warning should be heeded by the entire world.

Most people just want to make a buck and live in peace. Lying deep within this mindset is indifference. A failure to address and recognize the underlying dangers present in society eventually leads to destabilization, allowing for greater evils lurking just outside the perimeters to approach without warning. R.M.N.’s distressing ending hints at foreign complications for the village population. The peaceful façade is now inevitably threatened.  

Borja’s rating 10/10

What do you think of R.M.N.? Let us know in the comments below! Keep up with R.M.N. and Cristian Mungiu at Just Watch! Currently streaming on AMC+. R.M.N. is distributed by IFC Films.

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