Crucifixion Exorcism

Cristian Mungiu‘s Beyond The Hills has been playing in three theatres since Friday. Presumably a few HE readers have seen it by now; it would be nice to run some reactions. It’s got a very respectable 83% Rotten Tomato rating. I’ve been praising it up and down since catching it 10 months ago in Cannes. Time‘s Mary Pols said it “may be the best movie no one will want to see in 2013″ I get that. But HE readers are different.

Okay, it’s a little long and perhaps too slowly paced, but that’s partly…perhaps entirely the point. Mungiu knows exactly what he’s doing, and I have to bluntly explain something. This movie is on you, man. You have to man up and sink in and study those nuns and that bearded, none-too-bright priest and those static situations and the stuff going in the background. Sometimes that’s the thing and not what’s happening in the foreground. Mungiu’s every-so-often decision not to have violent action occur front and center isn’t just brilliant — it’s historic.

You have to feel the chill wind and smell the goat’s milk and the burning wood and surrender to the grayness and the occasional snowfalls. And you definitely have to savor that final shot inside the police van. Either you get Romanian cinema or you don’t. BTH is a little bit dull at times, okay, but a major art film.

  • Edward Klein

    This doesn’t look like an easy sit, but a must sit just the same.
    I was in Romania in 1970. Interesting then, I’m sure very different now.

  • ToddD

    I get Romanian cinema, but I can’t get to any theatres that show stuff like this. I’ll have to either see it on VOD, which I believe it’s being released on soon (?) or wait until it’s on Netflix, which is what I do for pretty much every movie nowadays.

    Sometimes I fantasize about what it would be like to live in a world where stuff like this or Amour or Elena or The Master or Once Upon a Time in Anatolia or whatever masterful art house movies you want to mention are wide releases that open in the top 10 of the box office. How crazy a society would that be?

  • John Burt

    Saw it today at the Royal in Santa Monica. It’s a slow movie but rewarding. It reminds me of last year’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, not with the story but with it’s pace and temperament. There’s an interesting contrast between the medical/modern world and the monastic/old world; the self destruction of blind obsession and devotion.

  • VanRamblings

    At last autumn’s Vancouver International Film Festival, I settled down to the 153-minute screening of Cristian Mingui’s cinematic fictionalization of a 2005 incident involving a novice who died after being subjected to an exorcism in Romania’s Tanacu monastery: an irrational horror at the heart of 21st-century Europe.

    Not having done my homework prior to the screening of the film, at the two-thirds point in the film I was bewildered about the film’s intent, as I asked myself, “Is Cristian Mungiu turning out a film in support of those who seal themselves away in rural monasteries, to a life of … what? Really, that’s Mungiu’s follow-up to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days?”

    And then, and then, at the two-thirds point in the film, the honesty and fidelity, intelligence and insight, and honest reflection on the human condition emerged, commencing with a spectacular “speech” by a resident doctor in the Romanian hospital where the monastic novice has been transported. Wow, and double wow. One of my favourite films of recent years.

  • JoeS

    I agree that in the end, HILLS is ‘rewarding’. Still, I have to say, I have become a bit weary of the wearying pace of the “new” Romanian cinema.

    The DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU had one of the best ideas for a movie this past decade, but, the execution was just too attenuated to have the impact it should have. 4 MONTHS and BEYOND THE HILLS are sharper than LAZARESCU (or POLICE ADJECTIV for that matter) but, why the languid pace? I have no problem with long, difficult films. ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA has been mentioned a couple of times. It’s an extraordinary film. High on my Top 10 list from last year. But, Nuri Ceylan is simply a much more accomplished filmmaker than the Directors of the Romanian films I have seen.

    Sitting and watching BEYOND THE HILLS, I had time to reflect on Tarkovsky and Theodor Dreyer (and, yes, there was plenty of time to reflect). Both, have been accused of having films with too stately a pace. But, like Ceylan, they were extraordinary talented FILM-makers, not just dry dramatists. Dreyer, in fact, made a film with more than some relevance to BEYOND THE HILLS – his witchcraft tale DAY OF WRATH (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036506/combined). Dreyer’s film, which while austere, is also visually interesting and quite cinematic. I’m not saying that Romania needs a Michael Bay, but, a bit more pacing and visual styling aren’t sins, either.

    Like I said, in the end, I found BEYOND THE HILLS a worthwhile film in the end. I wish more had been made of the lesbian connection between the two girls, for I think it illuminated much of the conflict between the flesh and the spiritual. The last shot is extraordinary. I just wish the journey there were more consistently riveting.

  • Matthew Lucas

    I think it’s the best Romanian film since 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS. It reminded me of BLACK NARCISSUS and ORDET it some ways. That last shot is killer.

  • GeorgeDAllen

    I caught it at the Philly Film Fest. It’s a sit, so to speak, but just as others have said, well worth it–not the same kind of “test” as a Bela Tarr, movie, say, but you should be ready for a deliberate pace. (As I remember I saw this the same day I saw “War Witch” and “Holy Motors,” so I might have been a little more impatient with it at the time.) Maybe to get the full impact, see it right before or after an Apatow or Marvel superhero movie. Decide for yourself which is the palate cleanser.
    Love the Pols quote. Cynical but oh-so-true.

  • http://www.twitter.com/danrevill Dan Revill

    I saw it last fall. Really liked it. I’m not sure if I’ll ever watch it again, but I would like to revisit 4 Months…,