Beyond the HillsDirected by: Cristian Mungiu Cast: Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Doru Ana Running Time: 2 hrs 30 mins Rating: NR Release Date: March 15, 2013 (Chicago)
PLOT: A nun (Stratan) reunites with her friend (Flutur) from a past orphanage, and invites her to stay at the convent, with troublesome results.
WHO'S IT FOR? With its pacing and subject matter, this is for people ready for some lengthy cold European drama.
Beyond the Hills is an emotionally frost-bitten movie of hushed voices and the constant visual of seeing the back of someone's head, (even though they're talking) which is a thoughtful cocktail that makes for a compelling image in the beginning. But, this all eventually becomes incredibly starchy as the movie refuses to pick up its pace. Even the performances, which chime better toward the third act when they are put to more constructive purposes, become tired as characters hardly evolve. The movie's inspired moments become redundant in themselves, despite their initial shocking potential.
If Ingmar Bergman could make something like Winter Light in 90 minutes, then any storyteller with the idea that has now become Beyond the Hills could certainly trim this script down to such a length. This movie's running time is one reason alone why I can't recommend it, especially with how director Mungiu decides to pace this movie. While Beyond the Hills is about the questioning of order in faith, especially in bubble societies (always a compelling topic), it becomes as dry as physically experiencing a precise religious service. That is, until the end of the movie, in which some mud gets splattered on a windshield — a refreshingly obscure moment which stands as the story's most challenging statement.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10