Romanian director Cristian Mungiu won the Palme D’Or in 2007 with his previous (and second) film, the abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Now, with his long-awaited follow-up, Beyond The Hills, Mungiu has not only surpassed the quality of his last film, but established himself as one of the most talented directors working today. Based loosely on a true story, Beyond The Hills tells of an intensely difficult relationship between two women (Alina, a migrant worker, and Voichita, a nun) in Romania (a topic he covered in his previous film, too, to great effect) as their possibly-romantic friendship is jeopardised by their contrasting religious beliefs.
Straddling the twin conflicts of love versus religion and religion versus society, Beyond The Hills is certainly ambitious in terms of theme, but it’s never bogged down by its politics – and, like the vast majority of modern Romanian films, it is very political. But this is what makes it so great. Mungiu achieves the balance between strong narrative and clear thematic purpose so comfortably, all while making a film of such grand scale and beauty. This is serious cinema, and it makes for a demanding watch, but you won’t see many films better than Beyond The Hills for a very long time. It really is something special.
- Matt Mansfield