Critics' Pick

Beyond the Hills (Dupa Dealuri) (NR)

Drama 155 March 8, 2013
By Scott Foundas
"Cloistered" doesn't even begin to describe the hills of Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills (Dupa dealuri), a film that may be doomed to be known as the "Romanian exorcism movie." In the Romanian town of New Hill, a priest known as Papa (Valeriu Andriuta) has gathered his flock in an Orthodox convent, and life is lived much as it was centuries ago. Based on real events that occurred in 2005 and were subsequently documented by author Tatiana Niculescu Bran in two fact-based novels, Beyond the Hills is about what happens when an outsider enters into this hermetic midst. The visitor, is Alina (Cristina Flutur), is the childhood friend of one of Papa's disciples, Voichita (Cosmina Stratan). Alina, now in her twenties, arrives to whisk Voichita a new life. Except Voichita entreats her friend to stay, and to let God into her heart too. And for a brief moment, it appears that Alina has chosen this righteous path, until she begins acting strangely possessive—or maybe just possessed. It's an agonizing tour de force, in which Flutur and Stratan (both screen newcomers) affect a convincing bond. Mungiu's camera is handheld but steady, ready to follow the actors wherever they go but always settling on careful, balanced compositions, some of which feature as many as a dozen characters masterfully arranged to recall the frescos of Ghirlandaio and Da Vinci in their austere, black-habited grandeur. The haunting final image suggests how quickly such stories can be lost in the onward march of time-- which makes Beyond the Hills a powerful and necessary act of reclamation.
Cristian Mungiu Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Valeriu Andriuta, Dana Tapalaga, Catalina Harabagiu, Gina Tandura, Vica Agache, Nora Covali, Dionisie Vitcu, Ionut Ghinea Tatiana Niculescu Bran, Cristian Mungiu Cristian Mungiu IFC Films


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