Beyond the Hills

Following 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days, which had been crowned with a Golden Palm at the Cannes film festival, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu is back with his much-anticipated new feature. While his new story is as strong as in his previous film, which dealt with illegal abortion, the only similarity between those 2 movies is the presence of two young friends and a male authority figure. For the rest, this is a total change of scenery, since he is leaving the city streets: Beyond the Hills takes spectators to a remote religious community located in the Romanian countryside and which peacefulness will be shattered when Alina, the former lover of one of the nuns, returns.

Inspired by actual events, the film seeks to describe as carefully the tasks of everyday life (prayer, preparation of meals, scooping water from the well) as the events that will slowly come deregulate this languid environement (Alina’s acts of violence and what the community makes her endure).

The film alternates between long, steady shots capturing the beauty of a snowy winter, the darkness of the houses and nervous sequences symbolizing the violence, with a cinematography by Oleg Mutu who had already contributed to Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa’s masterwork My Joy

Mr. Mungiu does not take his time to just create a formal work that could be vain. If the film is stretched, it is in order to better distill the tension that inhabits his work, from the beginning to the end. During those exorcism sessions aiming at delivering Alina’s soul from some supposed evil, the film slowly sinks into Horror, at the edge of Fantasy. We know that all this will end badly, as drama hangs over their heads, like the sword of Damocles, but the way it will turn out will be quite unexpected. Each character will be facing choices that will question their religious beliefs and their own humanity: according to the director

“Most of the biggest mistakes in this world were committed in the name of faith and the belief that they served a good cause”. No Manichaeism here and while faith is the target of his work, the filmmaker is careful to not condemn, leaving that role to the authorities, from those police officers who came to investigate to the prosecutor. Mr. Mungiu portraits his characters with tenderness, making spectators share their inner suffering. He will even show fleeting glimmers of distress in the eyes of one of his characters at the end, when she assists, powerless, to the ordeal of her friend.

The film’s strength lies in a choreography of emotions that slowly uncover in each sequence. Beyond the hills is a Romanian Exorcist built on dull tension rather than special effects, making it an upsetting masterwork.

Director: Cristian Mungiu – Actors: Cristina Flutur, Catalina Harabagiu – Running time: 2:35 – Year: 2012 – Country: Romania

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Moland Fengkov

Moland Fengkov

Based in Paris, Moland is a journalist and photographer; He is more particularly responsible for covering the Cannes film festival for Plume Noire, writing movie reviews and taking gorgeous pictures.
Moland Fengkov

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