Alina and Voichita are two young woman who have supported and loved each other since first meeting as young children in an orphanage. Since leaving the orphanage, Voichita has found refuge in an isolated Orthodox convent in Romania where she lives her life as a nun. After spending a few years in Germany, Alina returns to Romania intent on getting Viochita to return with her. Voichita is not interested in leaving the convent, leaving Alina devastated and desperate to win back Voichita"s affection. Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills is a beautifully crafted film which takes a pensive look into the relationship between free-will and faith. The character dynamic between Alina and Voichita is well-layered and fascinating, ultimately being the backbone of the entire film. Nothing is clearly defined but as the film progresses it becomes clear that Alina and Voichita's past is more than simply platonic friendship. Cristian Mungiu's viewpoint on religion is rather venomous in its depiction of Voichita, a woman whose come to realize she has had her free-will stripped away from her. For the most part it definitely works but for me the film's point shouldn't be simply about religion but how any collective can damage the individual. Voichita is a woman whose individual desires are all but extinguished completely because of the allegiance she has to her collective. We see many instances, some incredibly subtle, of how Voichita's heart and mind are not in a agreement particularly pertaining to Alina. I was not a fan of Cosmina Stratan's portrayal of Voichita - a performance that was far too cold and distant to gain much resonance. In all honestly a lot of the film success should be attributed to the craft with staging and compositions that really do a great job at creating this sense of dread and unease. Beyond the Hills is a film that argues how any collective can slowly destroy free-well and individualism, even groups whose intentions are for good. Cristian Mungiu's films are pretty clear in their intentions, with Beyond the Hills being no different, but I really want to see him tackle a subjet matter in which he doesn't have such a cut and dry opinion about.
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