For the holidays, Matthias is reunited with his son Rudi, his elderly father Otto and his native village of Transylvania, Romania, after quitting his job in Germany. He tries to win back his former girlfriend, Csilla, who decides to recruit foreign employees in the factory she runs. This upsets the village and frustrations, anxieties and conflicts break out.

“Given the state of the world, I think we all need a brain scan,” said Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu, in explaining the intriguing title of his new film, R.M.N. (for “nuclear magnetic resonance”).

Matthias, a gruff and obtuse man who went into exile in Germany to find work, returns to his native and multi-ethnic village in Transylvania. His father, Otto, is ill and his 8-year-old son, Rudi, hasn’t spoken since he suddenly got irrationally frightened in the forest on his way to school.

When the bread factory managed by Matthias’ ex-girlfriend, Csilla, decides to recruit employees from Sri Lanka, for lack of local manpower, the villagers rise up to demand that these workers be immediately fired. in their country. “We have nothing against them,” they chorus, “but we prefer them at home!” “, they say during a long sequence shot of almost 20 minutes, during a meeting which turns into the people’s court.

It is this uninhibited xenophobic discourse, fed by the far-right nationalists who have invaded Europe in recent years, that Cristian Mungiu is interested in in this social, economic and political drama, inspired by a fact miscellaneous about a village in Romania, where citizens of Romanian, Hungarian and German origin live, which wanted in 2020 to drive out the foreign workers who had been hired there from the local factory.

Islamophobia, racist stereotypes on hygiene and disease, fear of invasion, theory of the “great replacement”: Mungiu, Palme d’or for the masterful 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days in 2007, Screenplay Prize at the Festival de Cannes in 2012 for Beyond the Hills and Best Director Award for Baccalauréat in 2016, does not spare his compatriots in R.M.N., which was also presented in competition at Cannes last year.

He underlines the paradox of a community made up of people from different countries, speaking different languages, who are themselves despised abroad, but do not agree to welcome anything other than white Europeans into their homes, the “historical majority”. For lack of empathy, driven by irrational fears, tapping into the darkest urges of humanity, where man joins wild animal.

R.M.N. is, in the image of this observation, an austere film, of greyness, snowy landscapes and desolation, like most of the works of Cristian Mungiu. The 55-year-old filmmaker’s view of his society is relentless. However, it does not spare the rest of Europe, where identity movements and populism are booming.

He is as critical of unbridled capitalism, which forces less fortunate European populations into economic migration, as he is of progressive paternalistic movements.

Putting a new brick in an already solid filmography, Cristian Mungiu offers another courageous, disturbing, destabilizing film, whose enigmatic conclusion, in the form of a fable borrowing from genre cinema, left me dubious.