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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grace under pressure
This is easily the most impressive, virtually flawless film I`ve seen so far this year, or indeed for many a moon.
It`s set for most of its lengthy running time at a hillside monastery in Rumania, where Voichita (a luminous, alert performance by Cosmina Stratan) is a young nun, visited by her onetime friend and lover the impetuous Alina (Cristina Flutur superb in a...
Published 18 months ago by GlynLuke

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A truly bad film
ADVANCE WARNING - THERE ARE VERY MANY SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

This film is hard to watch and not very enjoyable. As someone who prides himself on getting the most from demanding films, I was disappointed with myself and wondered why I struggled with it. Had I lost my Art House mojo? Was it time to rewatch some Jarman, Tarkovsky or Kieslowski? Thinking it over...
Published 3 months ago by Jonathan


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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grace under pressure, 17 May 2013
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Beyond the Hills [DVD] (DVD)
This is easily the most impressive, virtually flawless film I`ve seen so far this year, or indeed for many a moon.
It`s set for most of its lengthy running time at a hillside monastery in Rumania, where Voichita (a luminous, alert performance by Cosmina Stratan) is a young nun, visited by her onetime friend and lover the impetuous Alina (Cristina Flutur superb in a difficult role), who assumes their relationship will continue much as before, without reckoning on the dogmas and time-honoured routine of the establishment into which she has strayed like a lost waif.
I was riveted by every moment of this beautiful film. One thing which struck me was how none of the actors seemed to look like they were acting their parts at all. This isn`t to say that the story is told in some drearily `naturalistic` way, as if dramatic momentum counts for nothing. Far from it. But you do forget that this is a film like any other (yet so unlike most others) that has been directed, produced, rehearsed, acted, etc.
Dana Tapalaga deserves mention as the Mother Superior, a kind but firm older woman with a serene, often otherworldly demeanour, who comes into her own the more the film progresses.
Valeriu Andriuta as the personable priest, hidden behind his impressive beard, is excellent too, in an unshowy performance of a fairly showy, paternalistic character.
The black-clad nuns under his protection work perfectly together, often required to move en masse, like a flock of crows. Each has as much of a distinct personality as the tale will allow, some flighty or girlish, others stern or reserved.
The arrival of Alina sets in motion a series of unwanted crises, which the hermetic religious society "beyond the hills" is hard-pressed to deal with. Some of the ensuing scenes have a near-farcical aspect, as the out-of-control Alina is ferried from one `cell` to another, or to be `read over` in the chapel by the ever more despairing priest.
Voichita all this time is arguably the most ambiguous figure, simperingly kind to her old friend (with whom she grew up in an orphanage) while needing to be true to her chosen vocation as an obedient nun.
The last scenes of this remarkable film are both alarming and, to some extent, cathartic. The very last scene - which I won`t give away - is perfectly judged. The world "outside" goes on in its usual mundane, fallible fashion, while the very last shot speaks volumes...
It isn`t often one sees a film which defies criticism, but this is one such. The other thing to say in its favour is that, rather like a Chekhov story, the film refuses to judge - at least until the end, when one character lets rip with a tirade of angry words - but prefers to show the unfolding of events, letting us decide for ourselves the rights and wrongs or otherwise of the actions of these well-meaning, somewhat ill-equipped people.
A masterpiece.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully Dark Romanian Drama, 17 Jun 2013
By 
Tommy Dooley "Tom" (London, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Beyond the Hills [DVD] (DVD)
Released in Romania as "Dupa dealuri" this is a film from award winning director Christian Mungiu (`4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days') who also wrote this his latest outing. It tells the tale of Voichita and Alina who were best friends and apparently lovers at a state run orphanage. Alina has since gone to Germany for work and Voichita has discovered God and is now part of a local monastery. Alina returns to get her friend to join her and when they first meet it is all hugs and smiles.

It soon becomes apparent that Voichita has `moved on' as they say in terms of her feelings and has very much taken to heart her frugal existence in this outpost of Christian Orthodoxy. She live under the tutelage of Papa the priest who is kindly but firm and single mindedly orthodox, having produced a `sin guide' to help believers repent and it contains 464 sins, just to point you in the right direction. The other nuns are led by `Mother Superior' who cares for them a like a big mother hen. They live almost self sufficiently, with no electricity or running water in what looks like permanently cold conditions.

Soon Voichita starts to act more and more bizarrely as she seems to not be able to control her emotional outbursts. Despite their better judgement the nuns decide to help her but only because they feel she must be possessed by Satan himself. What then unfolds is as surprising as it is intriguing and turns into one very dark tale indeed.

This is just excellently made and acted and with a run time of 152 minutes is not for the fair weather viewer. This has led to accusations that the editor could have been more ruthless, but the story is such that it actually benefits from the extra screen time. I was hooked from very early on and the tension increases as the film unfolds and to say I was taken aback by it is an understatement. A film about a run down monastery and a couple of friends where one can lose her temper, is not the sort of synopsis to get your cinematic juices flowing, but this is a remarkable piece of film making that is a definite must see for all cinephiles and lovers of European cinema - highly recommended indeed.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The road to hell is paved with good intentions... (Contains spoilers.), 30 Sep 2013
By 
Lola (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Beyond the Hills [DVD] (DVD)
I found "Beyond The Hills" moving, though-provoking and disturbing, and I loved it. It is directed by the critically acclaimed Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, known to show life as it is, a master of austere naturalism, disciplined narrative and unforgiving honesty in portraying life in a troubled Eastern European country (and life in the monastery, so isolated from the modern world that it feels medieval).

The film takes place in an Orthodox nunnery in Romania, where Alina has just been reunited with her childhood friend Voichita after spending several years in Germany. The two young women (both actresses shared an award for their outstanding performances at the 2012 Cannes Film festival) shared more than meets the eye, and it is gently let on they were more than just friends. Alina desires Voichita to leave and return with her to Germany, but Voichita has found a new home and family in the religion and the monastery, she refuses to leave. In her attempt to win back Voichita's affection, Alina challenges the father of the convert, challenges the life in monastery and rebels against the religious way of life. She is taken to hospital, her behaviour is manic and violent and the sisters of the monastery start to suspect that she is possessed. The doctor in the Romanian hospital prefers to send her back to recover at the monastery (shockingly offering either a choice of sharing bed with other patient, or be an outpatient). Alina is included in the monastic routine in the hope that she will get better and find piece. But her condition worsens and she finally finds herself tied down (with chains) to a wooden plank (cross) to prevent her from hurting herself. The priest and nuns decide to read her prayers to deliver those possessed by the devil. They perform an exorcism, but the result is not what they had hoped, and the inevitable end follows (with unavoidable conclusion).

This is an extremely powerful film, more so that it is based on a true story. The acting, the cinematography, the atmosphere - everything is flawless (and more than 2 hours of the films just flew past me, I was engrossed and loved every minute of the film). I cannot recommend it enough, more so that it touches important aspects of the everyday life, the clash between religion and civil life, modern world and faith in God, and ultimately, what is right and acceptable and was is not. The director presents the drama as it unfolds, and I felt black and white were never so grey.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions... And who is there to blame?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak indictment of societal indifference, 26 Sep 2013
By 
technoguy "jack" (Rugby) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Beyond the Hills [DVD] (DVD)
Cristian Mugui's follow up to 4 Months,3 weeks and 2 Days is a stunning depiction of a real life tragedy that unfolded in a small religious community in Romania.It depicts exorcism in a way similar in theme to Requiem.This film indicts the society of which the monastery is a by-product.What is impressive is the slow unfolding of the drama,the lived-through rituals,daily routines,prayers and devotions.You feel trapped in the monastery,but the director is non-judgemental,presenting soberly the facts and information behind this frighteningly compelling real life mystery.There is an authoritarianism and hysteria in this closed order of nuns under the monastery's Father(Valeriu Andriuţǎ) and Mother.This film like its predecessor,one that revolves around two female friendsimprisoned by societal structures,is set in the 21st century but the monastery with no power or running water,could be in a medieval world.

Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan play Alina and Voichita, two young women who have been brought up in an orphanage and formed an intense bond, partly through surviving abuse. Alina has returned from an attempt to get temporary work in Germany and, to her horror, discovers that Voichita has become a novice nun. This long movie is played out in a kind of real time, a mysterious secular passion play. Perhaps inevitably, Voichita is now conditioned to be a pious, submissive believer and Alina a tough, self-reliant non-believer. They are still in love,but the papers for Alina to take Voichita back to Germany were not in order, so their destinies are arbitrarily shifted another way: Alina comes to live in the orphanage, where Voichita infuriates her by talking about God all the time. Alina's disruptive, sexually threatening presence causes mayhem from almost the very beginning; she acts out her own frustration and self-sacrificially intuits Voichita's. One's idea of love(want) conflicts with the other's(need).The secular vs. the orthodox worlds.

On top of this is the idea Alina,in the throes of schizophrenia and self harm,needs both hospitalization and treatment, which the Father and the nuns take her rightly to,but the doctor sends her home with some medication. The hospital which, through pure bureaucratic weariness or inter-institutional complicity, releases a disturbed young woman into the nuns' care,giving them the advice to pray for her.Then the Father reads with her for 3 days and 2 nights,until the 'unclean one had departed'.She becomes disruptive again,seeing the Father as possessing(having sex with?) her lover.We see the evil path that good intentions take,the community's attempts to drive evil out of her(read sexuality/unbelief) through chaining her to a pallet-cross,stopping up her mouth and not giving her enough food and drink.Mugui uses long takes,does not move the camera or use music.We get a larger picture of an exhausted society,without ideas or education: a directionless, hopeless world. The secular agencies of the state are at least as culpable: no one wants to look after Alina, and this leaves only the priest and his exorcism, whose desperate and foolish decisions are routinely cast as understandable in the moment, if not defensible.Great cinema.The lead actresses seem natural,the ensemble superb,the direction unbelievable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Phonetic, dramatic and tragically heartrending...", 16 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Beyond the Hills [DVD] (DVD)
Romanian screenwriter, producer and director Cristian Mungiu`s fourth feature film which he wrote and produced, is based on real events which took place in Moldova in 2005 and two non-fictional novels by Romanian author Tatiana Niculescu Bran. It premiered In competition at the 65th Cannes International Film Festival in 2012, was screened in the Masters section at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, was shot on location in Romania and is a Romania-France-Belgium co-production. It tells the story about a 24-year-old woman named Alina who travels by train from Germany to Romania where she is reunited with her friend named Voichita whom she was separated from after they left the orphanage they lived in and choose different paths. Voichita whom has become a nun at an Orthodox monastery now lives up in the mountains nearby a village with a monk called Papa and a sister called Mama whom she and the other nuns who lives there regards as Father and Mother superior. Alina is allowed to stay with Voichita after Voichita tells the priest about Alina`s situation, but Alina is not a believer in the same sense as the other ones there and when she realizes how devout and accustomed her former roommate has become to her new life, she begins to question the monk.

Distinctly and engagingly directed by European filmmaker Cristian Mungiu, this finely paced and somewhat fictional tale which is narrated from multiple viewpoints though mostly from the two main characters` viewpoints, draws a consistently gripping and dense portrayal of how a Romanian woman reacts when she learns that the only person in the world whom she trusts and loves has developed an unconditional love for God and renounced her love for real human beings, and how the monk and nuns at a monastery reacts when a woman who does not share their beliefs rocks their boat in the name of love. While notable for its naturalistic milieu depictions, low-keyed and nuanced cinematography by cinematographer Oleg Mutu, production design by production designers Calin Papura and Mihaela Poenaru, costume design by costume designer Dana Paparuz and use of sound, this dialog-driven and narrative-driven story about intentions, choices, the transformation of a person`s personality through indoctrination and the, in this particular case, conflict between sanity and hysteria where materialism and science is replaced by imposed solitude and superstitious experimenting on human lives, depicts two interrelated studies of character about two friends with afflicting and harsh backgrounds who are united by a human connection and separated by religious doctrines.

This psychological, literary, non-judgmental and atmospheric love-story which was chosen as Romania`s official submission to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards in 2013, which is set during a spring in a patriarchal cloister in Romania in the 21st century and where a minor community is trying to get their church consecrated by a bishop, a woman tries to the get her friend to move to Germany with her and religion is a character in itself which confines and directs the other characters, is impelled and reinforced by its cogent narrative structure, substantial character development, efficient continuity, masterful screenplay, multiple and interrelated themes, unsettling undertones, moral intricacies, refined characters, thorough depiction of the nuns` lifestyle, the pivotal scene towards the end when the voice of reason takes command, the subtly understated acting performances by Romanian actresses Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur in their debut feature film roles and the fine acting performances by Moldovan actor Valeriu Andruita and Romanian actress Dana Tapalaga. A phonetic, dramatic and tragically heartrending mystery which gained, among several other awards, the award for Best Director Cristian Mungiu and the award for Best Actress Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur at the 65th Cannes Film Festival in 2012.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good film in here somewhere., 25 April 2013
By 
B. S. Kelly - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beyond the Hills [DVD] (DVD)
Watched this film at our local Arts cinema last night.It is riveting for the first nearly two hours
and then became a bit of a strain.It is too much long and desperately needed editing down.The performances of
two female leads is brilliant, as indeed in general, the direction.There is a real sense of the religious fervour
created within the monastery.The desperate feelings of loss , abandonment and jealousy in Alina are convincingly portrayed.
A film for cineasts who are prepared to stick with a powerful but rather too long film.
Brian Kelly
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Different from the mainstream, 7 Mar 2014
By 
Mort Peacock "embuggerance" (Sydney,Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beyond the Hills [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
A very interesting story about the conflict between religios love and physical (human love).The film relied on story and acting and a unique setting . It wasarefreshing change from the computer generated mayhem.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great piece of work, 11 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Beyond the Hills [DVD] (DVD)
I'm upset that this 'Artificial Eye' release includes no special features, subtitle options, and lazy DVD authoring but the film it self is one of my favourites.

And I say that because you can see the effort that went into this film on from the actors and certainlky form the direction. There's a heaviness to it that eastern Europeans are good at. The heaviness is, I think, a genuine result of their suppressive history. In this case, the communist legacy lingers over the greater setting of Romania, while a pocket culture of superstitious nuns in an old monastery is doubly suppressive.

The viewer may find himself siding with the dogmatic mindset of the nuns just to keep the peace that is upset by an exhaustively intrusive and obsessive lesbian who refuses to leave the stubborn and insular community to be what it is.

No character in this film is light and carefree and just wants to live life happily. Like with many Eastern European films, as opposed to French and American films, that mindset does not exist in this world. At least not in a way westerners like me would recognize it. Everyone seems consumed by something.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent film from Romania, 2 July 2013
By 
Alan Pavelin (Chislehurst, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beyond the Hills [DVD] (DVD)
The Romanian director Cristian Mungiu is best known up to now for his 2007 abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a highly naturalistic film set during the Ceaucescu regime. Even better, in my view, is his new production Beyond the Hills, also with two young women as the central characters, and set mostly in an Orthodox monastery (Orthodoxy is the main religion of Romania). Based on real events, this 150-minute film concerns two girls, Voichita and Alina, who grew up together in an orphanage; one went to live in Germany while the other joined a community of nuns, presided over by a heavily-bearded priest whom they call Father, or Papa.

The film begins with the young nun Voichita meeting Alina who has come by train from Germany to visit her, and it soon becomes evident that Alina has long been passionately in love with the nun, and also is quite a disturbed person. Clearly this causes problems in the monastery, and Alina becomes more and more of a problem, especially for the Father. She displays a hostile attitude towards the various religious practices, reluctantly agreeing to make her confession after having read to her a list of the 464 sins it is possible to commit. She has a spell in hospital where she has to be given a tranquilliser. Her frequent pleas to Voichita to leave the monastery and go away with her are always rebuffed. Eventually the Father decides that she is possessed, and attempts an exorcism, which leads to the film’s devastating finale.

Mungiu’s style is very distinctive. Each scene is shot in a single take, normally with a stationary camera. The film is almost like a fly-on-the-wall documentary, aided by the utterly brilliant acting by Cosmina Stratan (Voichita) and Cristina Flutur (Alina); they shared the best actress award at Cannes last year. The film is stunning to look at, especially in the external countryside scenes where the monastery is located.

The long uncut scenes, both contemplative and gripping to watch, are interrupted from time to time by Alina’s outbursts, most disturbingly when the attempted exorcism takes place. There is none of the sensationalist head-spinning and other phenomena seen in, for example, Friedkin’s The Exorcist, just the frantic attempts of the Father and several nuns to hold her down, eventually to chain her to a cross, so that the Father can read the appropriate words over her. Without giving away the outcome, there is a scene in a hospital with a most aggressive woman doctor (shades of an earlier Romanian film, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), while the film ends suddenly and unexpectedly, and in my view satisfyingly, without our discovering the final outcome of this real-life drama.

Mungiu is non-judgemental in this film, just as he was in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. The viewer can see it as a criticism of a somewhat medieval setup presided over by a power-hungry priest, or as approval of a sincere attempt to cure a troubled soul which goes wrong. There is lots of God-talk; this is one of those rare films containing serious theological discussion for the interested viewer. A magnificent second feature from a hugely talented director. My one small complaint about the DVD is that it contains no extras, other than a trailer.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beyond., 28 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Beyond the Hills [DVD] (DVD)
sadly didnt run on my dvd player,so had to use the laptop,its subtitled,but these were clear to read and much of the film speaks for itself.its based upon a true story and is a follow up of the book of the same name,sadly noy translated to english
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Beyond the Hills [Blu-ray]
Beyond the Hills [Blu-ray] by Christian Mungiu (Blu-ray - 2013)
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