BEYOND THE HILLS: THE REVIEW

WOW Salty Kernel, Andrew Brusentsev, is not one to give out a perfect score easily – it would appear he has found one of the foreign MUST SEE FILMS OF THE YEAR. BEYOND THE HILLS is releasing on August 8 and is a Madman Film so expect it at most of your art house cinemas – do not miss this one – get your tickets the week it comes out. Being a Romanian film I do not expect a hugely long run on this one at the box office – but I wish more films like this did get bigger releases – it might bring back in the mature viewers who are keen to see something more than an American popcorn film, it could also revive a shrinking cinema box office. But enough of my rambling, enjoy Andrew’s review.

 

Andrew Brusentsev, Beyond the Hills, Beyond the Hills Review, Cosmina Stratan, Cristian Mungiu, Cristina Flutur, Dana Tapalaga, Dupa dealuri, Romanian Film, Valeriu Andriuta
BEYOND THE HILLS: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

Although Beyond the Hills is a story about possession, those expecting some kind of horror movie will be sorely disappointed. That is not to say this movie should not be seen rather it should be seen by everyone. Will just get this out there – It is a masterpiece, clocking in at just over 150 minutes it is rare for a movie not to have you looking at your watch by the 120 mark. But I was riveted from the first shot to the last.

Beyond The Hills is written, produced and directed by Crisitan Mungiu who was inspired by the nonfiction novels of Tatiana Niculescu Bran who had written an account similar to the proceedings of this movie.

The movie is set in Romania at the beginning of winter, the scene painted as bleak and harrowing as its subject matter. There is something here some shadowy ancient superstitious magic that although set in the present harkens back to a time before the modern.  The story right from the outset introduces us to two women after an absolutely amazing single take shot of Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) navigating her way between two trains at a train station through a crowd of people. Superb photography and editing by Oleg Mutu and Mircea Olteanu (DOP and Editor) who need to be given high praise for their expert work for this shot alone.

 

Andrew Brusentsev, Beyond the Hills, Beyond the Hills Review, Cosmina Stratan, Cristian Mungiu, Cristina Flutur, Dana Tapalaga, Dupa dealuri, Romanian Film, Valeriu Andriuta
BEYOND THE HILLS: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

Essentially it is the story of two girls, orphans, and best friends. One girl with dark hair, one with fair hair. Voichita and Alina (Cristina Flutur). They have not seen each other since the orphanage days. Voichita chose to stay in her rural community and after the orphanage found solace in a monastery and with God. Alina, restless, fiery, chose to move to Germany to find some sense of self there. There is something odd about Alina we the viewer sense immediately. It seems her need to see Voichita verges on the hysterical, the unreasonable. Like a lover doomed to a fatal attraction she needs to possess her to the exclusion of all others. The same feelings need to be reciprocated surely?

Voichita sees it and in the initial scenes tries to make Alina understand that she has found a strange peace in this community of nuns. Alina doesn’t understand, “But I need only you” she states. Is there something wrong with her? Or is she just scarred by her past? Alina refuses to understand Voichita’ s life here. A community of nuns, under the rule of a Priest (Valeriu Andriuta), who Alina believes has some kind of spell over her only friend. The company of other women the Mother Superior (Dana Tapalaga) and nuns bother her. It seems that each girl wants to rescue the other. Alina wants Voichita to renounce the life of a nun and move with her to Germany. Voichita takes her vows seriously and wishes her friend could share the comforts of work, prayer and spiritual discipline.

 

Andrew Brusentsev, Beyond the Hills, Beyond the Hills Review, Cosmina Stratan, Cristian Mungiu, Cristina Flutur, Dana Tapalaga, Dupa dealuri, Romanian Film, Valeriu Andriuta
BEYOND THE HILLS: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

The two women deliver absolutely brilliant performances. They thoroughly deserved their Best Actress awards at Cannes. This dynamic gives this film its bedrock, its suspense and ultimately its devastating power.

Mungiu as a storyteller is brilliant. It is as if the camera has been placed on a table in a real monastery and we are viewing the principles during their daily lives. There are no poor performances, the ensemble cast works well together. The movie is long and its pace is glacial but there are such rich rewards in the subject matter. The nuances in camera work are perfect, it allows for the intimacy and spiritual calm that Voichita finds in monastic life, as well as the unbearable climate that Alina views in it. There is neither good nor bad here it just is, two different views on life? Rather like in a classic Bergman movie, mortal man for Mungiu stumbles through life reaching for God or for solace in earthly concerns. Both powers Earth and God seem unable to give the answers that we seek in our need, Do either really care? Blind man moves between them both looking for solace with no real result.

 

Andrew Brusentsev, Beyond the Hills, Beyond the Hills Review, Cosmina Stratan, Cristian Mungiu, Cristina Flutur, Dana Tapalaga, Dupa dealuri, Romanian Film, Valeriu Andriuta
BEYOND THE HILLS: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

As the movie progresses and Alina’s emotional outbursts (initially treated at the local hospital) become more and more frequent the patriarch priest takes it upon himself to cure her of possession. If mortal power could not work the miracle surely the Lord will help. It would be so easy to paint the Priest as a villain but he isn’t. Rather he is motivated by real compassion and seeks to prove his own goodness. There is no blame assigned as the story unfolds it is so much more deep and complex than that.

There are such vast themes covered here in a film limited in scope, we have Romanian Society (The Hospital, The Orphanage and the Police) and the Orthodox Church (Monastery) once elevated to these levels the full power of Mungiu’s vision becomes apparent. No wonder Mungiu won the Best Screenplay at Cannes. This is a cinematic tour de force. It left me speechless and completely blown away.

No hesitation……

 

5 Pops