Graduation: Near and Far



Along with Olivier Assayas of France, Cristian Mungiu was named Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. Mungiu’s award, for directing Graduation, was not his first—4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days had won the Palme d’Or in 2007, and Beyond the Hills had won Best Screenplay in 2012. Thus Mungiu’s body of work has been crucial to the sudden prominence in recent years of Romanian films. Accounts of the artistic success of these films have often emphasized their minimalist and neorealist renderings of the daily lives of ordinary people. In addition, though, Graduation excels at depicting human psychological and moral complexity—in particular, the inner struggles and disrepair of the film’s main character. Critics have ascribed his problems to the chaos of Romanian economic, social, and political life. But however imposing this chaos may be off the screen, it is relatively limited and muted within Graduation. The psychological complexity and disorder portrayed in Mungiu’s film chiefly reflect not external chaos at a specific time and place, but internal, ongoing, and, most likely, universal dilemmas of the human soul.

Keywords: Cristian Mungiu, neorealism, time, slow cinema, long take, André Bazin, chaos

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.27.2