Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple's bond of love is severely tested.
A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son's custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.
Thomas Bo Larsen,
A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease.
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 Alina and today she is back to Moldavia 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
A rewarding final act makes up for some dry moments.
As someone who ranks Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days as one of the finest films of the past decade, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have high hopes going into Beyond the Hills, the latest film from the Romanian director. While Hills can't compare to the kind of revolutionary experience that 4 Months... was, it still has enough positive qualities to where I could say that it's well worth watching, despite being a somewhat disappointment. Mungiu's approach in 4 Months... was a fascinating one, often utilizing long takes and inventive framing to truly give the audience a sense that they were in the room with his characters, making their predicament almost unbearable in its increasing intensity.
Beyond the Hills does have its fair share of hard to watch moments, particularly in the final act, but he takes a more conventional approach in his directing style that doesn't allow it to be nearly as effective as it could have been if he had gone a more similar route. What he does continue to excel in, however, is creating an absorbingly real environment that gives this picture an almost documentary-like atmosphere. With the use of strictly natural lighting and no composed musical score, along with his ability to draw incredibly natural performances out of his mostly untrained ensemble of actors, after a while Mungiu can really trick you into feeling as though you are just watching real life.
The events that unfold throughout the large portion of the narrative are relatively ordinary affairs, which makes a drastic turn in the later stages come on like a speeding train that hits you right in the gut. This dramatic shift could have been jarring and practically absurd in the hands of a less capable storyteller, but Mungiu's fully authentic approach pays off so well here as Beyond the Hills remains frighteningly real even as it delves into something straight out of a horror film. He takes such care in building an environment that you believe in, so much so that the film can have a tendency to drag as you slog through the first few acts, but it all results in a glorious climax that makes it all seem much more worth it.
I do have some complaints about the picture, particularly in the writing for the characters and a surplus of unnecessary scenes. Mungiu is great at making these people feel real, but there are several times where the characters were having conversations that they already had fifteen minutes prior and I didn't understand the need to keep recycling the same ideas without really going anywhere with them. It all progresses eventually, but at times it felt like there wasn't enough meat in the script to warrant the extensive 150-minute running time so instead Mungiu just repeated a lot of the same things in order to stretch it out and make your journey to that brilliant last act longer. Beyond the Hills takes a while to get going and there's a lack of depth in its themes and characters that make it impossible for me to fully embrace it, but the slower moments are all worth it in the end as they pave the way for Mungiu's ultimate endgame.
Again, it's got to be mentioned what fine work he does here with his actors, especially the leading female duo of Cosmina Stratan and especially Cristina Flutur. Two ladies who have never acted in film before, Mungiu makes you completely unaware that these are two actors playing parts and instead the women provide vital ingredients to that completely authentic environment that the director is so focused on creating. He's focused so much on it, in fact, that some smaller elements are sacrificed in order to serve the greater good. Beyond the Hills definitely doesn't live up to the full promise of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days but it is still another fascinating step for one of our more interesting modern filmmakers.
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