Film review: Beyond the Hills (12A)

 

Cristian Mungiu made one of the great films of the last decade in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, about two young women in the final dark days of Ceausescu's Romania.

His latest is set in the present, though the past chokes the atmosphere like weeds. A young woman Alina (Cristina Flutur) has come by train to see her best (and only) friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan).

They grew up together in an orphanage, but have since gone separate ways, Alina to work in Germany, Voichita to a hilltop monastery where a priest rules over a gaggle of nuns. The drama plots the way Alina's arrival there is at first an inconvenience, then a source of tragic conflict.

Through this prism, Mungiu portrays a country paralysed by fear and superstition, not merely in the terrified flappings at the monastery but in the police stations and hospitals – the Romanian health service makes our NHS seem a model of efficiency and caring.

This is a slow and in all senses torturous film, less affecting than 4 Months...,though braced with Mungiu's signature moves, the long takes, the compositions of individuals within a crowd, and that still camera, quietly judging.

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