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Beyond the Hills - Film Review

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by Mila Wood (subscribe)
I work in the Finance department of a media company, and someone who dabbles in writing of any genre.
Published July 31st 2013
A film that will mesmerise you from beginning till the end
Please note this review contains spoilers.

I was born in a country where Catholicism is predominantly practised, and grew up in a strict religious environment. I therefore experienced first hand the rules and regulations the Church imposes to its devotees. After finishing a master's degree in one of a prestigious university, a family member heed to the calling of God and join the monastery to become a nun. For the years that followed she had difficulty accepting the restrictions imposed by the Church and her consecration to God. Outrage by her defiance, the Church gave her the choice to embrace God's will fully, and without questions, or leave.

She can no longer walk with the three monkeys hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil; so she chose to leave. The emotional torment that she went through before her decision to "divorce" God is harrowing, to the point that those close to her questioned if there is an evil force that had manifested her soul.

Beyond the Hills is a film inspired by an alleged demonic possession in Romania's Moldova region in 2005, which is centred on two friends, Alina and Voichita, who grew up together in an orphanage since first grade - for both of them the only family that they've ever known is each other. Alina was 19 when she was fostered to a family, and later travelled to Germany to work, while Voichita became a nun in an Orthodox monastery. a holy place where she embraced God, and found a family that she'd never had.

Alina didn't find the happiness that she strived for, instead she longed for the company of her friend Voichita. But the visit to the monastery to lure her friend to join her and leave the church was met with fury by the members of the congregation. It was demanded that she confess her sins and was given a list of 464 sins compiled by the church as a guideline to write her own sins, but that didn't sway the Priest to embrace Alina. Soon, hell has descended to earth to bring forth what the Church considered as an evil that manifested her soul. The priest of whom Voichita called "Papa" and, with the consent of Alina's brother, proceeded to do a reading exorcism.

After a few agonising days, Alina passed away. Like most of us, all she ever want is to love and be loved. She was only 25. The circumstances of her death sparked an investigation, prompting the authorities to question on how the Church deals with the sick and the needy.

Set at the top of a hill in a quiet town, 100 kilometres away from Bucharest, with the backdrop of the snow and the howling dogs, this film's background is perfect.

This multi award-winning film is directed by Cristian Mungiu, from Lasi Romania who also directed 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Voichița, played by Cosmina Stratan, portrayed her role to perfection. Her role as a Nun was with humility, grace and passion; her amazing beautiful eyes can penetrate your soul. Like Cristian Mungiu she was also born in Lași, Romania in1984. A graduate of Journalism and Advertising, she also studied and graduated in acting from UNATC Bucharest.

Cristina Flutur as Alina is magnificent; she did a very good job in stirring my emotion. Right from the start of the movie to the end, she delivered with conviction; a talented woman who is naturally gifted in her chosen field. Also born in Iași, Romania, 1978, she graduated in 2000 at the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University as a Linguist then studied acting in Cluj.

The Priest - Valeriu Andriuță born in USSR in 1967 studied engineering in Chișinău then graduated as an actor in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1993. "Papa" as the Priest was called, played this challenging and controversial role in a manner that is very befitting as the head of the congregation. In his words "One can only fully love God if he or she denounced all material possession including those that they previously loved before".

This is a powerful film that touched the inner sanctity of a holy congregation. On what point a human being, irrespective of the fact that they are servants of God, can decide between right or wrong, evil or demon, friendship or love?

Although there are scenes that are unnecessarily prolonged, the overall concept of this movie will mesmerise you right from the beginning till the end. Albeit of all the controversies surrounding the Church at these current times, it is a very interesting film.

12 Nuns, 1 Priest, one sinner, the Apostles and the Last Supper?
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*Mila Wood was invited as a guest
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Why? A collective masterpiece that will haunt you
When: Now showing
Where: In selected cinemas
Cost: Varies
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