Beyond The Hills Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ June 10, 2013
'Beyond the Hills'. Incited way too much frustration with its whiny protagonist that overshadowed anything it was saying about love.
Super Reviewer
½ March 27, 2013
The film meticulously, intelligently lays out all of the facts, relationships, and points of view of this strange modern horror story very democratically and compassionately. The result is brittle with realism: chilling, compelling (despite its at times desperately slow pace), and extremely thought provoking. It's incredibly well acted and filmed in solemn, carefully orchestrated one-shot scenes, but the result, despite utterly convincing intimacy and humanity, can seem almost too expositional, laying out the story's parts almost as if to a philosophical jury rather than a human viewer. The result was a film I admired more than I actually loved. Nonetheless, a unique and remarkable film, and one with undoubted power.
Super Reviewer
March 20, 2013
Mungiu delivers yet another powerful and nerve-wracking film that is bound to leave you totally drained by the end of it. Though also a bit unnecessarily repetitive after a while, it is nevertheless a challenging, devastating drama about liberty, devotion, security and obsession.
Super Reviewer
March 18, 2013
Alina (Flutur) and Voichita (Stratan) are two young women who have been friends (and, it's implied, lovers) since their time growing up in one of Romania's notorious orphanages. Upon leaving the orphanage, Alina emigrates to Germany while Voichita joins a convent run by a priest (Andriuta), known to his followers as 'Daddy'. Finding their separation unbearable, Alina arrives at the convent, planning to take Voichita with her to work on a German cruise ship. Voichita resists, claiming God's love is now more important to her than Alina's. Believing her friend has been brainwashed by 'Daddy', Alina determines to disrupt life at the convent but, when she suffers some form of an attack, for which the local hospital can provide no explanation, the sisters at the convent begin to believe she is possessed by the devil.
Many critics have labelled Romanian director Mungiu's latest as a cheap shot at religion. Some have compared it to William Friedkin's 'The Exorcist'. I would have to disagree with both these conclusions. Far from attacking religion, Mungiu's film exposes the cruelties of an uncaring state which drives people to religion in search of comfort. The most sympathetic characters in the picture are the members of the convent. They may have a despicable worldview but it's one they genuinely believe in. It would have been easy to paint 'Daddy' as an evil Svengali figure but Mungiu resists the temptation for such a cliche. Despite Alina's suspicions, there's no evidence that the priest is taking advantage of the females in his care. In contrast, the secular authority figures are portrayed as cold and apathetic. When Alina is first brought to the hospital, the nurses moan that she would have been better taken care of at the convent. States who wish to take shortcuts love religious institutions as it means they can pass the weak and vulnerable of society in their direction. When my country, Ireland, won independence from Britain, the same thing happened. The government was broke but the church was loaded and so the task of running the country's education, health and care industries were passed to the church. The horror stories are still emerging to this day. We all know people who condemn the church yet are happy to avail of its services when they wish to hold a marriage or a funeral. These are the people Mungiu is attacking: the hypocrites who moan about religion but are happy to use it when it suits their needs.
The film is based on a real-life event, which makes comparisons to 'The Exorcist' ridiculous. It's clear that Alina is not suffering any form of possession. The hospital claims ignorance about her affliction because they simply want her off their hands. Due to their way of thinking, the members of the convent automatically see something they can't explain as the work of God or, in this case, the devil. If a comparison can be made to any successful mid-seventies film it's Milos Forman's 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'. Like Jack Nicholson's McMurphy in that film, Alina enters an institution with plans of disruption but quickly learns the hard way that the house always wins.
With stunning performances across its cast and brilliant direction from Mungiu, 'Beyond the Hills' is a must-see for believers and skeptics alike.
April 21, 2013
Young nuns living a life of seclusion in a monastary. The air of lust and yearning is all around, as are hints of possession, the demonic kind. But Beyond The Hills is no sex-filled horror show, rather it's a subtle, artful and moving take on whats sacred and what most certainly is not. Beyond The Hills is the excellent third film from Romanian director Christian Mungiu, who made his mark with his potent 2007 abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Beyond The Hills is a more cerebral, intimate affair. Alina (Cristina Flutur) has arrived at the monastary to see her childhood friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), who now serves as a nun. There are hints these two best friends may have been more, but its never spelled out one way or another. There's only Alina's desire to take Voichita away to a life beyond the monastary. The subtleties and nuances are a testament to both actresses, who are superb. And Mungiu skillfully allows for the bleakness of their lives to come front and center. Anyone looking for spinning heads and projectile vomiting are in the wrong place. There's no Exorcist craziness going on here, just nuanced and potent provocation. Its result are astonishing.
½ March 18, 2013
The (very) slow build does add to the impact of this more-ambiguous-than-you'd-think morality fable, but it's really, really slow. The found sound is pretty cool, as is the near-amateur casting.
October 11, 2012
NYFF 12 A tightly directed intense drama bringing a new spin on the conflict between religion, tradition and the modern world.
January 3, 2014
A captivating, austere drama. Bergmanesque.
October 28, 2013
This is a movie that requires EFFORT. To start with it is 2 1/2 hours of unrelenting dull obedience to rules and regulations in a monastery, orphanage and hospital where the act of obedience is enough and of course removes any personal responsibility from the individual.
Where individuals do scrape a space for themselves you almost wish they hadn't.
What is really mysterious is that the film is riveting.
Go figure, but see the film first.
August 6, 2013
Christian Mungiu succeeds at mystifying, shocking and disgusting with this film. "Beyond the Hills" is a hard hitting and emotional film, executed with a sense of realism in mind. Christina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan deliver excellent performances and Christian Mungiu's gritty direction elevates this film to great heights.
March 22, 2013
There are no easy answers. Right for a person could be the wrong for another. Cristian Mungiu is definitely on my list.
½ July 8, 2013
PAINFUL!! This is the slowest film, with the most pointlessly dragged out scenes ever! We forwarded it by an hour and still nothing had happened. I don't normally leave reviews but this film was so bad I feel I should do the public a favour and balance out the other reviews. I can only say I think they must have watched a different movie.
March 17, 2013
From the director of 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days..I will expect a great cinematic experience!
½ January 5, 2013
Besetting to watch, Beyond the Hills offers a great philosophical reflection to its audience.
½ March 19, 2013
Decade lasting Romanian invasion on pretty much all of the prominent European festivals continued last year with, among others, Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills. Mungiu brought his film to Cannes, the same place he picked up a major award for his 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, one of the most acclaimed works of the past decade. As is the case in these situations, all eyes were pointed in his direction when he finally announced his second feature. If the five year gap between two films tells you he's been aware of those looks, his film confirms that notion in few unpleasant ways. It is obligatory longer than its predecessor, has an obligatory controversial theme and has won him few obligatory awards. It also presents itself as an obligatory viewing for fans of serious cinema.

This time around, director stays in the present (months, weeks, days happened in the late eighties) in the story set in a remote orthodox monastery, where nun Voichita (Cosmina Stratan)receives a visitor from Germany, her friend Alina (Cristiana Frutun, both very convincing). Two girls were friends in the orphanage, became something more (we can be pretty sure of that) later, had an arrangement to go work together abroad, but that's now in danger of being delayed because Voichita has found in the monastery life calm and security she feels she has no chance of getting anywhere else. Alina decides to stay with her for a while, with both girls showing substantial dependency on one another, without the courage to admit their paths can't go in the same direction any more.

Alina's attempts to adjust to a life in monastery and become member of a community whose strict readings of The Bible she has no desire of accepting induce few convulsions of rage, prompting the well-meaning priest to believe she is possessed by Satan. The cure is one many moviegoer's have seen on the big screen in the last 40 years, but not often, if ever, in a picture like this.

There are several times when we follow characters leaving the monastery and interacting with regular people. They visit dreary, unequipped hospitals, cold rooms of the police station , take a quick gaze in the hopelessness of the orphanage Alina and Voichita grew up in. After a while, those scenes cause the movie to loose direction. Social themes, structurally set in the background, come to the fore in an intensity that does damage to the balance of the entire piece. Voichita, burdened with group mentality, takes the sacral direction mainly because she has been either failed by other formal institutions, or she has had no reason to rely on their help. In the monastery, separated, she knows all of the promises, though modest, will be fulfilled in the end.

The other conflict, one that puts the ostensible security of blind faith against the risks of giving confidence to another human being threatens to fade away as a consequence of the permeation mentioned above. One gets the feeling that all of the time spent inside the church walls has no real purpose, other than stressing out the social context. As a consequence, some might find the exorcism scenes sensationalist or out of place. Either way, their futility remains.

Mungiu can probably justify two and a half hours running time with a carefully choreographed turn of events, where he needed the last half an hour to put a stamp on many points he pursued. Still, one truth remains. All the layers of suggestive darkness that soak the screen from the first minutes (this is one of those pictures where shades of black are covered by the shades of gray) can't conceal the lack of one memorable scene. Everything is staged with monotonous expertise, as if writer-director thought some small burst of spontaneity would violate his overwrought plan. I'm talking, for example about that wonderful scene in Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, where the first appearance of a female figure, almost an hour into a film, makes both us and the characters forget about everything else. In a picture with contemplative pace this strict, we have a right to expect at least one of those.
November 22, 2012
An amazing surprise, I loved every single moment of it! The scenery, the lights, the characters, the language: everything was perfect.
April 13, 2013
4 out of 5 stars. This review from the Toronto Globe & Mail states it well - "If you long for the bleak intelligence of an Ingmar Bergman film, where humankind is deeply flawed and God is indifferently silent and the landscape is cloaked in perpetual winter, then Beyond the Hills promises to be your cup of despair." Cristian Mungiu is a brilliant writer-director and with his follow up to the harrowing Cannes Palme D'Or winning abortion film, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," this is another searing journey to the dark side of humanity. Shot in long takes that allow the actors to work up a storm, it sets up the conflicts between characters that explode in unexpected ways and force you to examine many sides to the issues he raises. Winner of the Cannes Best Screenplay and a co-win for the lead actresses, this is a world class film that will be studied by future generations.
April 2, 2013
Not sure how or why this bleak slow moving turd made it into my itinerary but I regretted every minute. There was nothing redeeming about this film. One of those movies you sit through and keep hoping that at some moment somebody will grab a rock and smash in the face of one of the other characters - Any character will do, they are all that unpleasant , stifling, muddy and unhappy.
½ April 1, 2013
By Al Alexander
For the Patriot Ledger
Cristian Mungiu made his filmmaking breakthrough with the devastating -- and devastatingly good -- Romanian abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days." And it often feels like it takes that amount of time for his long awaited follow-up, "Beyond the Hills," to unspool. But even though his languorous horror story about good intentions gone bad drags, your patience is hugely rewarded when it all comes together in the final 30 of its butt-crushing 152 minutes.
What a shocker that ending is, too. And what makes it so unnerving is that it's largely true, culled from a nonfiction novel by BBC reporter Tatiana Niculescu Bran about a botched exorcism at a remote Moldavian monastery in 2005. To say anymore would spoil the experience of willing yourself to Mungiu, who like all innovative artists can be as maddening as he is amazing. It's mostly the latter, although you don't fully realize it until the final credits. Before that point, you may -- like me -- find yourself wishing that Mungiu had hired a more judicious editor than Mircea Olteanu, who regularly fills the screen with long static shots of nuns toiling in the frozen, snow-covered confines of the rustic, hillside monastery.
It is into this staid, unforgiving environs that 25-year-old Alina (Cristina Flutur) becomes entrapped while paying a visit to her friend - and former lover - Voichita (Cosmina Stratan, sharing best actress honors with Flutur at Cannes in 2012), now a snowbound novice under the beguiling influence of the monastery's bearded priest, known to everyone as "Papa" (Valeriu Andriuta). From the start, Alina and Voichita are operating from opposite agendas. Alina wants Voichita to leave the monastery and join her in taking jobs aboard a German cruise ship. But Voichita, who has long since renounced her homosexual "sins," has designs on saving Alina's troubled soul. Chaos - well, as much chaos that could possibly arise at a religious outpost devoted to providing food for orphans - ensues, and the more vehemently Voichita refuses to leave, the more irate Alina becomes, especially when her childhood friend repeatedly resists her sensual touches. Are Alina's protests those of a jilted ex-lover or signs of a woman possessed by the devil?
What happens next is ghastly, not in the tradition of rote exorcism movies, but in the ugliness of human nature, which as we all know can be far scarier than a little girl spewing pea soup while her head spins like a top. And as he proved with "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," Mungiu is a master at getting under your skin and making it crawl. He does it so sneakily, too, that you're unprepared for all the frights he has in store. He also possesses an equally sly sense of humor that manifests itself largely through the cluelessness of Alina's half-witted brother, Ionut (Ionut Ghinea), and her quack doctor (Costache Babii), who believes the best way to calm a patient is by strapping her to her bed.
Where Mungiu truly excels is in his mastery of imagery, whether it's the forbidding winter mirroring the forbidding (and hypocritical) nature of religion, or fastening a body to a wooden cross as a means of helping that person see the error of their ways. And what do you know, that cross makes its appearance right smack in the middle of lent. Such scenes are so striking, yet so pure, that you'd swear Mungiu has inherited the spirit of Ingmar Bergman. All that's missing is the stark black-and-white photography. Yet, like Bergman, experiencing Mungiu can occasionally be a chore. But when the end results are as spectacular as "Beyond the Hills," it's truly a religious experience.
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