Film Review: BEYOND THE HILLS

Written and Directed by Cristian Mungiu
Starring: Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Andriuta, Valeriu Andriota, Dana Tapalaga

Sometime a story can be tragic and noirish, without a single villain or even intentional villainous act and BEYOND THE HILLS is a good example of that. Muniu (Romanian director of the Oscar nominated FOUR MONTHS, THREE WEEKS, TWO DAYS) tells the story of two girls, brought up in an orphanage and active lovers for some time before the film begins, The two are separated when Alina (Andriuta) goes off to Germany to work as a barmaid and Voichita (Stratan) joins a convent in a remote part of Romania. Alina cannot take life without Voichita and comes to the convent to persuade her friend to leave. Voichita believes her sexuality needs to be bridled by the strict life of the church and refuses to join her friend.

Although no one is overtly cruel to Alina, bad things (perhaps supernatural) begin to happen. But the attempts of the convent’s priest (Andriota) to eject her meet with even more mishap. The kindness of the nuns turns brutal without their realizing it.

This is a long movie that takes its time in showing you what life at the convent is like. Neither girl is particularly sympathetic and their motives and history unfurl slowly and enigmatically. The two were awarded the Best Actress award at Cannes last year.

I recommend this to patient viewers who are interested in European cinema. Religious themes dominate the film but there are interesting analogies to be made.

Patti Abbott