Martin Langley, Duty Manager at the Regal Picturehouse, Henley-on-Thames writes about BEYOND THE HILLS.
From the moment Alina turns to stare back towards the Moldavian town, we can tell her reunion with childhood friend and lover Voichita will not be a smooth ride. Returning from work in Germany in an effort to entice Voichita to join her, Alina discovers her lover has left their orphanage home to join a strict orthodox monastery ‘beyond the hills’.
Alina’s elation and emotional outpouring at the station rapidly dissipate, and we immediately sense Voichita’s apprehensions that her past will encroach on her newly found faith and devotion to the church. Her concerns are vindicated as Alina’s arrival unsettles the familial relationships at the monastery, in particular with the slightly sinister Father or ‘Papa’.
What follows is a brilliantly poised tale of love to the point of obsession that makes BEYOND THE HILLS worthy of its entry for the 2013 Oscars. Romanian director Cristian Mungiu fills plot and dialogue with sufficient portent to make the final act a very tense affair indeed. The almost monochromatic colour palette perfectly depicts the sparse living conditions at the monastery as we witness the ever-increasing gulf between the two lead characters. Voichita is the model of Christian morality, taking in stray dogs, supporting the orphanage and ultimately trying to save her troubled soulmate. Alina seems hell-bent on removing the object of her desire from the monastery by any means necessary so that they can resume their lives together. As events begin to spiral out of control we are made to question the motives of both girls, the other nuns and Papa, as well as of the Church itself.
Mungiu’s film might make a perfect companion piece to 2011’s MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, though the performances here are much more subtle, without the more shocking revelations of Sean Durkin’s film. BEYOND THE HILLS is a powerful and thought-provoking examination of love, obsession and religion, set against a harsh Romanian backdrop, which will stay with audiences long after the final credits have rolled.
BEYOND THE HILLS screens on 14 May at Picturehouse cinemas.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/61103139″>Beyond the Hills – In Cinemas & Curzon on Demand 15 March</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/artificialeye”>Artificial Eye</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>