We speak to Cristian Mungiu about Universal Themes and his new film Graduation
The film, Graduation, by acclaimed Romanian film director, Cristian Munigiu, follows a young graduate-to-be, Eliza (Maria Drăguş), and her father, Dr. Romeo Aldea (Adrian Titieni), as they face the hardship of living in a still transitioning post-communist Romania. While Eliza and her father have always ‘played by the rules’, (rejecting the corruption that surrounds them in their country) their morals are blurred when Eliza is attacked and sexually assaulted the day before her exams.
The exams being the only obstacle standing in the way of his daughter living a better life outside of Romania, Dr. Romeo comes to terms with his decision to bribe the exam doctrines to insure Eliza receives high marks. Discovering her father’s choice sets Eliza into a spiral of doubt, and she begins questioning the moral bedrock of everything her father has taught her. This shift and Eliza’s sudden need to begin making life choices of her own brings to light the major theme of the film; the conflicting ethical ideals of old and new generations and how the two groups grapple with a society that is failing them.
While the film is set in Romania, Munigiu feels the issues brought up go far beyond his country, “The setting took place in Romania yes, but it wasn’t just a Romanian film for me. As I got feedback from screening this film in many countries all over the world, when I talked to the audience, people felt that this story could have happened in their own countries. I’m talking about the major themes in this film; living in constant compromise, corruption in the government and society, this idea of parenting and education, and this clash between the old and new generations. These themes are universal.” And it’s increasingly true. Taking a step back, it’s hard to think of a country that isn’t presently dealing with these very issues. Whether your beliefs don’t align with your leaders’, or you live within a community that disregards your needs, these incongruities are ever more present. Munigiu continues, “I think the film speaks about human nature and some very general topics. I really wanted to touch on the major topics of compromise, which is more personal, and corruption, which is more general. It’s interesting when people speak about corruption they never include themselves in the conversation”.
The conflicts that occur within relationships and society is a common thread in all of Munigiu’s films. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), winner of multiple awards including the Palme d'Or, shows the struggle of two girls getting abortions in communist Romania when terminating a pregnancy was illegal. Munigiu is a master of reflecting universal cultural issues while spotlighting the hardships of his home country. Graduation carries this message, imparting that no matter what nation we come from, we are all facing similar issues and we are truly not so different at all.
Written by Britton Litow