Beyond the Hills
After his nailbiting drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu employs a slow-burning brand of suspense in this riveting account of a nun torn between her devotion to God and her loyalty to a lifelong companion. Having found her calling at a remote Romanian monastery, Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) is taken aback by the arrival of Alina (Cristina Flutur), who insists that they flee to Germany together. When the devout nun demurs, Alina comes apart at the psychological seams, leaving the monastery’s authoritarian priest (Valeriu Andriuta) convinced that she’s possessed. As Aline’s rescue attempt cedes to the priest’s relentless efforts to save her soul, Mungiu’s technical brilliance transforms Beyond the Hills into an equally captivating and disconcerting experience. His masterful long takes not only draw us deeper into the women’s trials, they also leave us with no avenue of escape from the mounting tension of his latest provocative tragedy. Based on a true story, the film refuses easy answers, recognising that horror emanates from love as easily as it does from evil.
"A quintessentially praiseworthy festival film: weighty in intent, unfamiliar enough in setting, rigorously masterful in execution… But what is remarkable about Beyond the Hills and the unexpected interrogations it awakens is the lingering sense of doubt it leaves you with. Not merely as to the virtues of organized religion—that would be too simple—but just as much the facile condemnation of it… It is a work that forces you into the not entirely pleasant yet oddly rewarding territory of moral uncertainty."—Joumane Chahine, Film Comment
"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." 3 stars Rick Groen, Globe & Mail
"Riveting to watch and fascinating to think about afterwards." Philip French, The Observer