Jump to content

Beyond the Hills


Overstreet
 Share

Recommended Posts

Deadline reports on Mungiu's new project:

Wild Bunch is reteaming with Cristian Mungiu for the 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days helmer’s first feature effort since his 2007 Palme d’Or winning drama. Along with repping sales on the new film, Wild Bunch is producing with France’s Why Not and Mungiu. Set in an Orthodox convent in Romania, the story centers on a young woman’s descent into madness, her subsequent exorcism and the police investigation it sparks. Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval tells me the genre film has elements of 4 Months, but with a much more intense twist. Wild Bunch will commence pre-sales in Berlin and is eyeing a Cannes delivery date.

I'm scared of this movie.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Link to our thread on Mungiu's previous film, 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days (2007).

Time to retitle the thread: This film is called Beyond the Hills, and David Hudson has rounded up some of the early reviews coming out of Cannes.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Seeing no thread on this film, I'm starting one. Anne Thompson tweeted out a link today to a short article and a video interview she did with director Christan Mungiu. (The stream isn't buffering quickly, so I haven't been able to watch it.)

The title of her blog post: "EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Cristian Mungiu Talks Not Cutting the Glorious 35 mm Religious Drama 'Beyond the Hills'"

Thompson's plot description:

Mungiu found a 2005 newspaper report of a woman who died strapped to a wooden cross during an exorcism and asked, "How is this possible?" He made up his own story about two young women in love, one who has seen the world since she left the tough orphanage where they comforted each other, and a second who lives safe within a nunnery run by a radical priest. The worldly girl tries to save the cloistered one, by trying to break through the barriers around her friend, mental, spiritual and physical. But everyone treats her as if she is crazy, even possessed by the Devil.

The Rotten Tomatoes review round-up is here.

I'm not sure when, or if, this film is releasing in the U.S. The IMDB release-date page doesn't mention an American release, although Thompson says IFC has picked it up, presumably for North American distribution, right?

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ahem. The original thread needs to be renamed.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

I caught this at the VIFF. One line that got some interesting laughs is when all the nuns are sitting in a room, talking about that girl who's just started visiting their monastery, and how that girl spent a lot of time in western Europe, and one of the nuns says something like, "I hope she didn't get involved in some weird cult or something."

Interestingly, a friend of mine found the film oppressively pro-church until one minor character lets loose with an anti-church tirade near the end -- whereas to me, the implicit criticism of the church (or aspects of the church) was there plain as day from the very beginning.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I caught this at the VIFF. One line that got some interesting laughs is when all the nuns are sitting in a room, talking about that girl who's just started visiting their monastery, and how that girl spent a lot of time in western Europe, and one of the nuns says something like, "I hope she didn't get involved in some weird cult or something."

Interestingly, a friend of mine found the film oppressively pro-church until one minor character lets loose with an anti-church tirade near the end -- whereas to me, the implicit criticism of the church (or aspects of the church) was there plain as day from the very beginning.

I certainly didn't see the film over all as anti-church. I think there is a distancing of this particular priest from the mainstream. He is on the outs with the Bishop, after all. However, I do think Mungiu is concerned with what the church does (which is tied I think to having a list of 464 sins) as opposed to the ideals of the church. I think he'd get along well with Tony Campolo and the Red Letter Christians. I also think he realizes that the nuns and priest were trying as best they could to do something good. At that point, I am really tempted to consider a look at how that applies to Romania as a nation/society and also expand to thinking of the film in geopolitical ways.

Edited by Darrel Manson
A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Darrel Manson wrote:

: I think there is a distancing of this particular priest from the mainstream. He is on the outs with the Bishop, after all.

Yeah, I wondered about that. I also wondered whether this priest was actually *living* with the nuns, which would normally be a no-no, as I understand it. (In a typical Orthodox convent, I am told, it is the head nun who makes all the decisions; priests would obviously have to visit to provide the eucharist, but they wouldn't *live* there or make all the decisions. But it wasn't entirely clear to me just how closely this priest was tied to this convent.)

: I also think [Mungiu] realizes that the nuns and priest were trying as best they could to do something good.

Oh, absolutely. But in a way, that makes what they do even *more* horrific, doesn't it?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Curious if Peter was as annoyed* as I was by the way certain Orthodoxspeak was ... ahem ... "Romanized" in the subtitles ("Mass" and "Easter" are the two I remember).

* On reflection, that isn't really le mot juste ... I need a word with more a tinge of "but what could I expect" resignation.

Darrel Manson wrote:

: I think there is a distancing of this particular priest from the mainstream. He is on the outs with the Bishop, after all.

Yeah, I wondered about that. I also wondered whether this priest was actually *living* with the nuns, which would normally be a no-no, as I understand it. (In a typical Orthodox convent, I am told, it is the head nun who makes all the decisions; priests would obviously have to visit to provide the eucharist, but they wouldn't *live* there or make all the decisions. But it wasn't entirely clear to me just how closely this priest was tied to this convent.)

It definitely played to me as if the priest was there permanently; certainly he's shown to be in charge in every important respect. And I must say that it did surprise me too -- to the point of publicly doubting sight-unseen the word of an atheist friend who already had seen BEYOND THE HILLS -- and for more or less the reasons Peter says.

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

vjmorton wrote:

: Curious if Peter was as annoyed* as I was by the way certain Orthodoxspeak was ... ahem ... "Romanized" in the subtitles ("Mass" and "Easter" are the two I remember).

"Mass" stood out to me, but "Easter" not so much (that's more "Anglicized" than "Romanized", surely, since the Romance languages all use some variation of the Greek word "Pascha", just as the Orthodox churches do).

I was also intrigued by the reference to one woman abstaining from communion because she was menstruating (or claimed to be menstruating). The Orthodox priest who baptized me and two of my kids just wrote a book on feminism in which he argues that women *shouldn't* be prevented from taking communion while menstruating (and, interestingly, one of the people he cites who does believe that women *should* be prevented from taking communion at that time of the month is the controversial universalist-leaning Orthodox archbishop who is interviewed in the recent documentary Hellbound?).

In any case, I had only heard of my priest's book a couple weeks before I saw this film, and, prior to that, I hadn't even been aware that this was an issue for some Orthodox.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

vjmorton wrote:

: Curious if Peter was as annoyed* as I was by the way certain Orthodoxspeak was ... ahem ... "Romanized" in the subtitles ("Mass" and "Easter" are the two I remember).

"Mass" stood out to me, but "Easter" not so much (that's more "Anglicized" than "Romanized", surely, since the Romance languages all use some variation of the Greek word "Pascha", just as the Orthodox churches do).

Well, I was trying to have fun with "Romania" and "Roman Catholic." I would agree that "Easter" is an Anglicization for the Romance-language related reasons you state, except for one niggling little fact. Orthodox churches in the Anglophone world still call it "Pascha" (even the OCA, which should in principle be the least ruled by old ethnic ties) which suggests to me some theological resistance (and which resistance made clang the use of "Easter" in the subtitles, when I could clearly hear a form of "Pascha" on the Romanian soundtrack).

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

vjmorton wrote:

: Well, I was trying to have fun with "Romania" and "Roman Catholic."

Ah! Heh.

: I would agree that "Easter" is an Anglicization for the Romance-language related reasons you state, except for one niggling little fact. Orthodox churches in the Anglophone world still call it "Pascha" . . .

Yeah, we do. But I guess the fact that most of my relatives call it "Easter", and the fact that my kids go to a Christian Reformed school, have left me a little flexible on this point.

: . . . (even the OCA, which should in principle be the least ruled by old ethnic ties) . . .

That's one way to look at it. Then again, Orthodox churches everywhere celebrate Pascha at the same time -- we may disagree on whether to use the old calendar or the new calendar for feasts like Christmas etc., but we do *not* disagree on when to celebrate Pascha -- and this means we often celebrate it some time after the Catholic/Protestant churches do. So, even for OCA churchgoers, there is arguably a disconnect between "Easter", which is the feast celebrated by Catholic/Protestant churches in March or April, and "Pascha", which is the feast celebrated by Orthodox churches in April or May -- and thus, there is value in using a different term for the feast than Catholic/Protestant churches do.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tony McKibben:

In various ways a continuation of the thematic relevancies of 4 Months... this is very much post-Ceausescu Romania (based on an actual case from 2005), but the regime’s effects are still felt. The girls were brought up in one of the many orphanages that grew out of the dictator’s contraception ban: a ban leading to many unwanted births, just as Ceausescu’s anti-abortion policy became the subject of 4 Months ... Mungiu’s style is consistent with new Romanian cinema (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu; Police, Adjective: 12:08 East of Bucharest): long takes, obtrusive yet often narratively irrelevant off-screen sound, generally subdued colour schemes, and actions that contain within them a stronger element of inaction. Mungiu is a director more interested in the process of events than the narrative role they play, and watching Beyond the Hills it is useful to keep in mind Mungiu’s insistence 'that cinema begins when you no longer use images to illustrate a written story'. Here, the director's quietly chilling account of a potentially exploitative subject shows once again why Romanian film matters.

Harvey Karten:

Visuals are often reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman, featuring the nuns in their black attire pacing about the grounds doing menial tasks and without the benefits of running water or electricity. They look like refugees from “The Seventh Seal” or, given the frosty winter weather perhaps “Winter Light.” Photographer Oleg Mutu bathes the screen in a big chill of blues and browns, the closeups and long takes of the characters showing a director’s skillful attention detail right down to the muddy brown splotch that splashes across the windshield of a van in the final moments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

This amazing film expanded to select markets over the weekend and grossed $1,800 per screen.

I would love to discuss the movie, but it'll be out of theaters in a week or two and will have to be discovered on home video.

I suppose I should be grateful I had the chance to see this on the big screen. It's easily the best film of the year so far, and will likely be high on my year-end list.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This amazing film expanded to select markets over the weekend and grossed $1,800 per screen.

I would love to discuss the movie, but it'll be out of theaters in a week or two and will have to be discovered on home video.

I suppose I should be grateful I had the chance to see this on the big screen. It's easily the best film of the year so far, and will likely be high on my year-end list.

This is exciting, because this film is near the top of my 2013 "looking forward to" list.

"What is inside is also outside." -Goethe via Merleau-Ponty, in conclusion to the latter's one extended rumination on film
Filmwell, Twitter, & Letterboxd

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not sure others will agree with my take on the movie's "main point," but here's what I came up with:

Whatever one thinks of the spiritual practices, rituals and intentions in Beyond the Hills, the story’s main point is how good intentions can lead us astray. As a detective who enters the story late says to those he’s investigating, “We need to acknowledge our mistakes.”

There are plenty of those to go around in Mungiu’s thought-provoking film, which leaves us wondering what we might have done differently to help Alina, and what our limits are in reaching out to those who don’t want help. A nun’s speculation that Alina “must be paying for some sin she committed” recalls John 9 1-3: “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

The outcome of John’s story is clear and inspiring. The outcome of Mungiu’s film is, at best, a question mark. We’re left to wonder what works of God have been shown in Beyond the Hills and what human truths it has laid bare.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think only Darrel, Peter and Victor among us have seen Beyond the Hills, so this question goes out to them.

I've read several reviews of this film, but IIRC, none have given more than passing mention to the character of Alina's brother. What did you make of his purpose in this story? I'm thinking he must represent something specific to Romanian culture, although the way he's used, or taken advantage of, crosses cultural lines.

Maybe you all disagree with my use of "used" and "taken advantage of"? He's working at a car shop of some sort when we meet him. He's unable to get an advance. But he'll end up being key to Papa's plans for Alina in terms of funds and permissions. He's clearly "slow," although I don't recall the film offering an explanation for that.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think only Darrel, Peter and Victor among us have seen Beyond the Hills, so this question goes out to them.

I've read several reviews of this film, but IIRC, none have given more than passing mention to the character of Alina's brother. What did you make of his purpose in this story? I'm thinking he must represent something specific to Romanian culture, although the way he's used, or taken advantage of, crosses cultural lines. Maybe you all disagree with my use of "used" and "taken advantage of"? He's working at a car shop of some sort when we meet him. He's unable to get an advance. But he'll end up being key to Papa's plans for Alina in terms of funds and permissions. He's clearly "slow," although I don't recall the film offering an explanation for that.

Few reviews mention him because he is rather marginal. He primarily serves one function, which you note. It's certainly a smaller role than say, the boyfriend in 4 MONTHS, who also wasn't much mentioned in reviews though I think there's some major allusive subtext in their relationship about a possible future repeat of that day's events.

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

I hadn't seen this film listed on too many Best of 2013 at the Halfway Point lists (it's #1 on my list) until today, when Anne Thompson posted four lists from the writers that post on her blog. Three of the four had it on their lists -- all in the top 5, and one at #1.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

A substantial interview with Christian Mungiu that includes some heavy talk about faith, religion, and the devil. Thanks to Alissa Wilkinson for highlighting this on Facebook.

 

CM: On the one hand, in this story there are the religious people, who do things out of their good heart, but they are wrong because they enforce an inadequate solution to the problem. On the other hand, you see the social institutions’ indifference and dysfunctions. Because of the scarcity of resources and the lack of education, the families of these girls abandon them; the orphanage gives them a shelter, but not the affection they need. When they are 19, these girls are sent out into a world that doesn’t offer them any real opportunities. So they are forced to emigrate or to become religious in order to survive. That’s their life in the midst of an aggressive or, at the best, indifferent urban community. The doctors — who could save that girl — perplex even the religious people by combining medical, rational solutions with personal Christian advice about the benefit of prayer in all situations.

My desire to make this film was born out of a feeling that I live in a rather alienated society, where even those driven by good faith fail to do the right thing, and where the majority of people live with the illusion that they believe in God, but act as if there is no God.

 

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the link, Jeffrey. I'd seen it earlier on Facebook and had meant to follow it later, but then forgot.

 

This remains my #1 film of the year at this point (yes, I've seen Gravity), but I've not come closer to a conclusive interpretation of the film's meaning since I saw it. As someone largely sympathetic to auteurism, I'd love to know exactly what Mungui was going for, but I don't know that would overturn my own interpretation of the film.

 

The first question and answer in that interview get right at this point, and are worth posting here:

 

COSTICA BRADATAN: Much of your latest film, Beyond the Hills, seems like a painting composed on a canvas of snow. The innocence of the young nuns — the whole monastic universe — resonates very well with the silent, white landscape. Then, something terrible irrupts into this peaceful world, after which nothing remains the same. The splash of mud in the final scene seals the end of innocence. That mud, however, also obscures everybody’s vision, the vision of the people inside the car — policemen, nuns, the priest — and ours, inside the movie theater. We can’t see what will happen to them next, but more importantly we don’t fully understand what has happened in the film: what has caused what, who is to blame, who is the victim, who the victimizer. Are you not concerned that, in this way, you might alienate the audience?

CRISTIAN MUNGIU: First of all, how can one say what “the audience” understands? Who gets this feedback from the audience? We all assume a lot of things about “the audience,” but in fact it’s all empiric. And is there just one audience, one that always has the same perception, or do we talk about different audiences, present at different screenings, on different evenings, in different countries? Would an American viewer and a Romanian viewer take the same things from this film? No. Would a believer and an atheist read it in the same way? No. We had this discussion in the Q&A sessions: the same film is being perceived in many different ways, depending on the viewer’s background. It all depends on what one thinks about religion, faith, and mostly about cinema. Therefore, to be objective or precise with “the message” of the film is just an illusion. And this shouldn’t be the concern of a filmmaker. Films shouldn’t, and can’t, be precise in that respect — they can depict attitudes, characters, situations, but they can’t interpret.

In Beyond the Hills things are as clear — or as unclear — as life itself. What I refuse is to interpret facts for the audience. In real life they have to do this interpretation for themselves, and I think it should be the same with cinema. I offer viewers the story with as many relevant details as possible. Yet, in the end, any interpretation is a mix of what you’ve seen and what you are prepared to understand. I have no intention to make the audience feel ambiguous about what happens in the story, but in life we don’t have just good characters and bad characters. This is the horrible simplification of a certain kind of cinema. Most people experience this lack of certitude as discomfort; they are used to watching films that tell them how to read what happens on screen and what to believe. This, for me, is a very simplistic and dysfunctional understanding of storytelling. I challenge viewers to have an opinion — whatever that is, given their education and level of conformism. But this is difficult because it requires an effort of analysis. At the same time, this is also more respectful to the viewer and, ultimately, even more ethical. I am not trying to impose my own point of view, I am just trying to bring forward stories that encourage people to think about important issues that they would otherwise never bother to think about. This could be one of the purposes of cinema after all.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...