(Dupa dealuri)

Dir. Cristian Mungiu. Romania, France, Belgium. 2012.

Talking Pictures alias







About Us


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.

Alan Pavelin

Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
Site searchWeb search
   Home | News | Features
    Book Reviews | About Us