A challenging, morose, metaphysical, metaphorical film by Christian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”); not for those looking for fluff or fantasy.
Based on an historical event in Romania (2005); atmospherically medieval, somber (much like “The Turin Horse”); a monastery (The New Hill) devoid of electricity, plumbing; water dredged from a well, technology has not brushed the “nuns”, living in primitive, archaic “cells”, but contented with their conversion, they have shed all vestiges of a contemporary, consumer society; led by an Orthodox self-ordained priest (Valerin Andriuta), affectionately referred to as “Papa”; their minimalist existence is informed by renunciation, excoriation of the world; accepting only the divine portents of the Bible.
“Voichita” (resplendent performance by Cosmina Stratan) has all-consuming, overwhelming faith in the sect, never doubting her devotion or sincerity; she greets her friend “Alina” ( Cristina Flutur, equally igniting portrayal) at a train station; it is obvious that the young women have had a sexual relationship while growing up in an orphanage; Alina is invited to stay at the monastery contingent upon her confession and recognition of the order’s rules. The complexity between these young women is heart -rendering; love and faith are at the root of this problematic and unforgiving pairing.
“Beyond the Hills” brilliantly tackles a fanatical interpretation of religion and its poisonous tentacles; airplanes, cell phones, science all rescue, but these individuals “beyond the hills” and oftentimes beyond reason, intransigently reject any entrapments, detours, obstructions from the “Word”. There is a common ground where faith and modernity cohabit harmoniously; choices between religion and the commodities of advancement, do not have to be divisive. Reminded of the the proverb that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”; “Beyond the Hills” preternaturally tests the limits of reverence, indoctrination; zealous devoutness devours rationality; leaving misguided, vacuous, sorrowful, eventually doomed, disillusioned disciples.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!