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Alina and Voichita have been friends since their orphanage days. And they have been lovers since they became sexually mature. But despite their oath of mutual fidelity, Alina, who could not bear poverty any more, emigrated to Germany where she became a barmaid. Now she just could not take the estrangement from Voichita and today she is back to Romania with a view to taking Voichita along with her to Germany. The only trouble is that in the meantime her girlfriend has betrayed her in falling in love with... God! Voichita indeed now lives in a convent where she plans to make vows. The priest agrees, if somewhat reluctantly, to accommodate Alina before their (hypothetical) departure. He sees all too well that not only is the young woman materialistic but hostile and troublesome as well... Written by
The Romanian film Dupa Dealuri (2012) was shown in the U.S. with the title "Beyond the Hills." The movie was written and directed by Cristian Mungiu.
A better name for this film would have been "Beyond the City," because the movie takes place in a Romanian convent where conditions are basically medieval--no electricity, no running water, no central heating. Ironically, the convent overlooks a modern city. When anyone from the convent visits the city, we are jarred into remembering that the action is happening today, rather than 500 years ago. A group of nuns live in the convent, which is directed by an Orthodox priest and his wife, who is the mother superior.
Two young women grew up together in an orphanage, and then separated. One of the friends, (Volchita, played by Cosmina Stratan) has joined the convent. The other (Alina, played by Cristina Flutur) has gotten work in Germany. When Alina returns to visit Cosmina at the convent, the movie appears destined to be about a liberated woman freeing her more traditional friend from the repressive religious, patriarchal, atmosphere of the convent. That's not the direction the film takes.
We learn that Alina is desperate to be with Cosmina. She wants Cosmina to leave the convent and join her in Germany. It's Alina who is troubled. Cosmina is happy at the convent, and truly believes that Alina belongs there as well.
I assumed that the convent would be a place of repression and degradation, but that isn't the case. The life is hard, but the nuns are not mistreated, and they don't appear to have been brainwashed into accepting the strict rules set down by the priest (played by Valeriu Andriuta).
The interactions between the outsider--Alina--with Cosmina and the nuns and priest take turns and twists that I wouldn't have predicted. It's a hard, cold life at the convent, and this is a hard, cold portrayal of that life, and what happens when that life is disturbed.
Beyond the Hills is a grim, but fascinating, movie about good intentions meeting harsh reality. The acting and cinematography are superb. It's definitely worth seeking out and viewing.
We saw this film at the excellent Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House in Rochester. It will work well on DVD. Beyond the Hills was submitted as the Romanian entry in the 2013 Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film category.
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