Dupa Dealuri/Beyond the Hills (2012)

Billboard at the convent's entrance: "This is the house of God. Forbidden to anybody of a different religion. Believe and don't doubt."
By Cristian Mungiu
With Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur

I came across Dupa Dealuri by chance, I was intrigued by the synopsis as well as the fact that it was shown at the Festival de Cannes. I was also influenced by the fact that it was by the same director who made "4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days" which I never watched but heard a lot of good about.

Dupa Dealuri takes places in a convent in mountainous Romania. Alina comes back from Germany to meet her friends Voichita, they were friends and grew up together in an orphanage. Alina had the opportunity to work in Germany while Voichita joined the convent. It seems they both struggled from their time apart, but Alina has a plan to take Voichita back with her and work together in Germany, when Voichita refuses because she is now devoted to God, Alina falls from grace. Her health, both mental and physical, deteriorates. She is seen as an outsider, she brought trouble to the convent, she is rebellious and the priest's sermons seem to have no effects on her. A difficult cohabitation sets in.

It is a raw movie, there are no special effects or fancy musical scenes. It's all about the emotions of the characters, even though emotions might be seen as something to be cured in such a religious environment, the lack of emotions is also shown on screen. This movie reminded me of Requiem (2006) in the fact that the Church tries to cure psychological disorders where it is clear that they are not qualified. I found it long, some scenes are really drawn out, in the dark rooms of the convent (where there is no electricity) it's hard to distinguish what is really happening and yet it goes on for minutes. I wish the film focused more on the Voichita-Alice friendship, than simply on the result of the breakout and pain Alina goes through. A daring topic to tackle for sure, I wasn't particularly convinced by the method.

I liked: The snow on the convent gives place to beautiful scenes. That claustrophobic atmosphere, similar to The Name of the Rose.

I disliked: The helplessness of the religious approach. Drawn out, in my opinion. I am not sure if it's just me who didn't pick on most of the symbolic, for example, the translated title Beyond the Hills, not sure where that came from.

I think there are better films out there dealing with psychiatric issues in a religious environment. Dupa Dealuri is a good example of one, but I wasn't entirely convinced. On the other hand, the rating and awards might suggest that this film will please most audiences.


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