Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak indictment of societal indifference, 26 Sep 2013
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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