Beyond The Hills (Dupa Dealuri) (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/03/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 150 mins

Writer-director Cristian Mungiu's follow-up to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is an engaging, thought-provoking and powerfully emotional drama with a strong script and a pair of terrific performances from Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Cristian Mungiu, Beyond the Hills is loosely based on a true story and stars Cristina Flutur as Alina, a young woman who grew up in a Romanian orphanage with her best friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan). The film begins some years later, with Alina returning to Romania and visiting Voichita, hoping to persuade her to come and live with her in Germany.

However, Alina discovers that Voichita has found God and is unwilling to leave the orthodox monastery that has become her home. Frustrated and upset, Alina decides to stay in the monastery in order to be with Voichita, but her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and causes the nuns and the priest (Dana Tapalaga) to believe that she might be possessed.

The Good
Cristina Flutur is excellent as Alina, delivering an intense, challenging performance that forces us to question her mental state; it's clear, for example, that she has strong sexual feelings for Voichita but is unable to express them. Cosmina Stratan is equally good as the soft-spoken, seemingly endlessly patient Voichita and Mungiu plays some fascinating games with our expectations; ordinarily, we would side with Alina, root for the pair to be together and think that the priest and the nuns had somehow brainwashed Voichita, but Voichita seems genuinely happy in her new life, while Alina seems dangerously obsessive and disturbed.

The film is impressively shot, courtesy of Oleg Mutu's sparse cinematography that makes strong use of the Romanian landscape and accentuates the stark living conditions within the monastery. Similarly, as with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Mungiu creates a powerfully tense, yet depressingly fatalistic atmosphere and the accumulated effect is genuinely disturbing.

The Great
The thought-provoking script explores a range of intriguing themes and ideas, such as the concept of love (sexual and romantic love versus God's love, the destructive power of both) and the damage wrought by both the church (despite well-meaning intentions) and the casual negligence of bureaucracy (specifically the police and the hospital Alina is taken to after an early episode). Similarly, Mungiu buries tantalising details within the dialogue that leave us to draw our own conclusions, such as the exact details of Alina and Voichita's past relationship or the fact that an assumed abuser operated at the orphanage while the girls were there and had a connection to Alina.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and superbly written, Beyond the Hills is an engaging, disturbing and provocative drama that delivers a devastating emotional impact. Highly recommended.

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Beyond The Hills (Dupa Dealuri) (12A)
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Content updated: 20/08/2018 15:37

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