Beyond the Hills

Cristian Mungiu does what the Eastern Europeans have always done extremely well, combining hard edged realism with political metaphor to telling effect.  What was once filmmakers’ only means of responding to the brutal totalitarian regimes has now become a matter of style but one that allows more latitude, free of the consequences of slightly overstepping the mark.  It is a natural development that has found its most complete form in the Romanian new wave, where local filmmakers are making sense of the present within the context of a recent terrible past in much the same way as German New Cinema did in the postwar period.


Mungiu takes us ‘beyond the hills’ of the film’s title to a forbidding monastery within contemporary Romania but it could just as easily be from any time during last three or four centuries.  This is a bleak self-contained place where a handful of nuns live a feudal existence, obeying the every command of ‘Father’, a tyrannical priest who enforces the scriptures with a Ceaușescu-style iron fist.  We see all the tell tale signs of oppression; the fear of the known becoming an irrational paranoia, with Christian mythology and the scars of state sponsored persecution all wrapped up in one.


One day is much the same as any other here, or at least, until the arrival of Alina, who puts the cat amongst the pigeons big style.  She visits Voichita, once her childhood soul mate and ‘friend with benefits’ when sharing beds in a cruel orphanage where sexual abuse by others was part of the daily routine.  Voichita is now a dedicated nun; she still loves her friend but ‘in a different way’ and urges Alina to confess and the Father to allow her to stay.


What follows is an affecting and deeply disturbing depiction of emotional repression and blind faith, where the two come into conflict in ways that are patently unresolvable.  Cristina Flutur plays Alina with a dangerous edginess, her fixed scowl making no attempt to conceal a resentment of everything.  She provides a striking binary opposite to the passive and compliant Voichita, who Cosmina Stratan portrays with a quiet desperation, hinting at an inner turmoil that is destined to remain below the surface.  Flutur and Stratan are newcomers to the big screen and deservedly shared the best actress prize at Cannes for two highly diverse but very convincing portrayals of long term damage from the same source.


Valeriu Andriuta, who had a minor role in Mungiu’s debut feature ‘Occident’, also excels as the Father; making a mockery of his almost complete absence from cinema during the intervening ten years.  It is a nuanced performance that explores the Father’s misogyny and fear – grappling with the constraints of being a cowardly bully – when Alina turns to profanity as a weapon of verbal destruction.  And there is an overwhelming sense of the Father drowning under the burden of the Church’s own preachings as his explosive conflict with Alina drives towards an exorcism, where acts of appalling cruelty and religious dogma become indistinguishable.


We see snippets of today’s Romania beyond the monastery walls; a transitional society, impoverished and largely left to its own resources.  Just as in Corneliu Porumboiu’s ‘Police Adjective’, old school attitudes still dominate institutions and we are aware that it will remain that way for at least another generation.  A typical hospital scene has a weary sixty-something doctor recklessly discharging Alina to the care of the nuns, one less patient to treat in a total abdication of his responsibility.


Mungiu has based his film on a real life case; making it serve as an analogy for the Ceaușescu years and a biting criticism of the Church and contemporary Romanian apathy.  Like all great filmmakers, he possesses the ability to see things very clearly.propranolol generic costcheapest inderalbuy propranolol canadainderal online uk

April 21st, 2013 - admin

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