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By Jayne Waterford
Copyrighted © Jayne Waterford, 2013. First published: 10th August 2013
REVIEW: "BEYOND THE HILLS" by Jayne Waterford

Cristian Mungiu's "BEYOND THE HILLS" (in Romanian "Dupa Dealuri") (2012) is an interesting small film about the small lives of small people and the thoughtless horror they can inflict when individuals sign their free will over. We open with Alina (Cristina Flutur) (dressed in a track suit and later strapped into a hospital bed in photographs following) coming back to Romania to get the love of her life, an orphan she grew up with to take her away. Her object of adoration is Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), a young woman who has committed herself to life in a rural monastery in Romania. I'd like to think "BEYOND THE HILLS" is inescapably a moral tale that not so much cautions us against stupid and cruel behaviour as shows us it is possible in a collective.

Mungiu is unsparing as 12 female disciples, including a "Mother," (Dana Tapalaga) cater to the every need of "Father," (Valeriu Andriuta) the priest. Their monastery is ram-shackled and hardly shows evidence of so much labour. They follow his every command and the problem is when Alina turns up. She is angry and violent in response to their treatment of her and unsettles everyone. They gladly take all of her money when she offers it so she may come back to the monastery to be with Voichita. They strap her to a cross after they consult Alina's dumb and sheltered brother about what

to do with her. They reason they have no other options. They read to her attempting to exorcise the difficulty they have with her and ultimately she dies.

Metaphors religious or otherwise abound. The beloved frees her, but only after she is lying dead on the cross. Disciples lie to the beloved that Alina is alive, taking advantage of her serine, blue smile in death. Snow lends a blamesless look to the place of their misdeeds. Voichita kneels to pray in her shared bedroom displaying her phallic plait.

Our lead characters are dressed in black and cleverly, any contemporary clothing looks out of place amongst them. It's Alina in her masculine track suit who appears to be the aggressor.

Fittingly the guilty parties shepherd themselves into the back of a police van and are forgotten as soon as the police park and a column of colourfully dressed, normal school kids cross our path. It's a long film for this meagre result. The only revelation seems to be in Alina's foster home where the foster mother jokes about how Alina took showers every day when she first arrived.

When commenting on how this film started Writer/Director Cristian Mungiu writes in an interview,

"In 2005 I read this piece of news about a girl visiting a friend of hers in a small remote Moldavian monastery and ending up by dying there a few weeks later after what the press called “an exorcism”. Soon this event made the headlines in every Romanian newspaper, and it wasn’t too long before the international press picked up the story. The local bishop rushed to excommunicate the priest and the nuns associated with the event as soon as the incident became public - disobeying the regulations stipulating that an inquiry ought to take place. The Orthodox Church condemned the event and distanced itself from it. Later, in 2012, they decided to entirely prohibit the practice of reading the prayers of St Basil - considered the main liturgical instrument in fighting ‘the Devil’. Nevertheless, the Internet is full of films shot on mobile phones attesting to the fact that this practice still continues."

Supposing that this sort of unentertaining thing happens in the back hills in the heart of religious communities, on a regular basis is stretching it too far.

Voichita is a wonderful religious devotee. She is very Madonna aka. Catholic school plays. Steady and condescending in her belief. Alina is a mal-adjusted pain in the butt and convincingly so.

Everyone adopts a subjugated posture, the women in

the presence of "Father," Voichita in face of her failure, Alina's brother at the news of her death, the guilty in the back of the police van. Subjugation seems to be a way of life. It reads as an expression of ignorance. This posture is the communities' only option in face of the unexpected.

Even though the performances are flawless I won't see it again. You had to look hard for things to appreciate and naming them above here makes it seem too clever. 4/10

Copyrighted ©: Jayne Waterford, 2013.

Cristian Mungiu's
"BEYOND THE HILLS" ("Dupa Dealuri") (2012)
Category Drama
Running Time 152 minutes (2 hours, 32 minutes)
Rating M
Origin France/Belgium/Romania: Romanian with English subtitles
Writer/Director Cristian Mungiu ("4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS" (?))
Producers mobra films
Stars Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan


Official Blurb ""BEYOND THE HILLS" is the multi award-winning new film from Palme d'Or recipient,
director Cristian Mungiu ("4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS" (?)), inspired by a case of alleged demonic possession that occurred in Romania's Moldova region in 2005. Voichita and Alina grew up together in an orphanage and the two girls were family for each other since first grade. At 19, Alina was taken in by a foster family and later decided to go and work in Germany, while Voichita found refuge in an Orthodox monastery and became a nun - there she found not only God but the family she'd never had.

Feeling sick and estranged, Alina strives to get Voichita back in her life, and visits the monastery in order to convince her childhood friend to leave the Church. Voichita asks permission to leave the monastery temporarily, but the Priests answer is firm: once you have taken the path of Christ there can be no comings or goings. Voichita is not prepared to abandon her newly found peace, while Alina is baffled by her decision: what on earth happened to the girl she knew? She starts fighting with all her strength to get Voichita back, but God is the most difficult lover of whom to be jealous - and soon the inhabitants of the monastery start to suspect something evil in this force that animates Alina." - MADMAN ENTERTAINMENT PR