London Film Festival 2012 – day three: Beyond the Hills
Sunday 14th October, 3.15pm – Curzon Mayfair
Beyond The Hills is a Cannes award-winning Romanian film written and directed by Cristian Mungio. It has been put forward for the Best Film in a Foreign Language award at the American Academy Awards. Loosely based on real-life incidents, the story follows two friends to terms with how their lives have diverged. Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) has been living a modest existence at a monastery while her best friend and possible lover Alina (Cristina Flutur) has been working in Germany. When Alina arrives to take Voichita with her back to Germany, things take a turn for the worse when Voichita decides she wants to stay at the monastery, devoting her life to god.
The story is truly gripping for most of the 150 minutes, there is a sense of mystery and intrigue into Alina’s motivations and the extent of her psychological problems. Papa, the leader of the ultra orthodox cult, is a menacing character with suggestions that he may not be as pious as he outwards projects. While the story is strong, there is a sense that the same ground is covered on numerous occasions. A more concise narrative structure would have provided a sharper kick to tragic events of the film.
Thematically Beyond The Hills explores faith, love and modernity. The possible love affair between the two female leads is never explicitly explored but through implication and brilliantly tense performances from Stratan and Flutur. Tragically Voicihta’s love or the hope of reciprocal love is the only thing keeping her sane. As this love is spurned in favour of Voichita’s newly found religious beliefs, Alina descends in to madness. The way doctors in town deal with her illness clashes with the backwards views of the cult whom believe Alina to be possessed by a demon. Another aspect of faith is explored by the notion that some of the nuns have only taken positions at the monastery to escape problems such as homelessness or abusive spouses.
Beyond The Hills has been beautifully shot, superbly acted and a multi-layered narrative with plenty of subtext to interest those interested in critically engaging with a film’s meaning. There is something off with the film though, it has the constituent parts to be great but there just doesn’t seem to be enough here to justify the 150 minute run time. Towards the end, as the events are reaching a crescendo, some interest will have waned as Mungio takes the scenic route to the film’s finale.
Read more reviews from the 56th London Film Festival here.
Watch the trailer for Beyond The Hills here: