Tag Archives: Beyond the Hills

Countdown: 2013’s Bounty of Foreign Films

The Academy did a nice job this year in honoring foreign language films. Each candidate was wonderful, and we were especially pleased to see The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown get attention. But the fact is, there were so many exceptional foreign language titles released this year, a lot of really wonderful movies didn’t get the nod. And that’s too bad, because without the Academy stamp, they went largely unnoticed in theaters. So, we decided to honor them ourselves. Please enjoy our list of the best foreign language films that did not get an Oscar nomination this year.

1. Gloria

If there’s one thing the films on our list have in common, it’s the strength of their female leads. Nowhere is this more the case than with the Chilean import Gloria. Paulina Garcia owns the title role with a performance that is raw emotion in action. With nary a false note, Garcia takes us on whirlwind coming-of-middle-age tale that never ceases to surprise.

2. Blue is the Warmest Color

Moving at its own pace, the French film packs an emotional wallop as it follows young Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) through her first affair of the heart. Anchored by Exarchopoulos’s powerhouse performance, and her touching chemistry with co-star Lea Seydoux, Blue is a beautifully human, wildly compelling love story.

3. The Past

Available today on DVD is a poignantly complicated, beautifully told tale of family dysfunction and the constant presence of our past. Blessed with unflinching performances – particularly from a magnificent Berenice Bejo – the wonderfully textured The Past keeps your attention as its mystery slowly unravels before your eyes.

4. Beyond the Hills

A Romanian story of forbidden love, progress and superstition, Beyond the Hills offers an understated and unhurried picture that leaves you shaken. A tale of survival and a displaced generation’s quest for security, the film makes for a beautiful examination of the weird, counter-productive, even dangerous relationship between primitive and modern Romania.

5. A Touch of Sin

That same tug of progress against a backdrop of old world creates the dehumanizing and corrupt environment for Zhangke Jia’s A Touch of Sin. The film dips a toe in four interweaving stories of individuals torn by the too-rapid cultural shift in China. Amid bullet and arterial spray, four beautifully developed characters struggle against their own bleak futures.



Sadness Lies Beyond the Hills

Beyond the Hills

By Hope Madden

Cristian Mungiu once again drops us into the world of two desperate women coping with the brutal realities of Romanian culture. Beyond the Hills leaves behind the urgent pace of his stellar 2007 output 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, but the outlook for vulnerable women is no less grim.

Alina (Cristina Flutur) and Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) grew up together in a Romanian orphanage. Now adults, both young women have sought security in different places. Alina moved to Germany to work, and returns for Voichita and a chance for the two to waitress on a vacation boat.

Voichita, however, has found a very different kind of solace as a novice nun.

At its core, Beyond the Hills is a potent story of two people who love, but ask too much of, each other. With clandestine love as his compelling core, Mungiu goes on to paint a picture of all that works against the weak as they seek happiness.

What goes unsaid holds more power than anything else in the film, and Mungiu vividly depicts the danger of their love in this community. More than an indictment of religion – although it certainly is that – Mungiu’s film begs you to look deeper. Without fanfare or editorialization, we witness the damage done by childhood abandonment, lifelong institutionalization, an inadequate healthcare system, and the culminating effect of a dangerous desperation to be loved, accepted and safe.

The leads balance each other beautifully. Flutur animates a suspicious, stubborn and alarmingly authentic mix of naïveté and world-wearied cynicism while Stratan’s soulful quiet betrays one more willing to submit for the sake of survival. Their love is never less than genuine, and Mungiu’s canvas of brutal primitivism versus soulless progress would have fallen part without that.

His eye remains impartial, misguided as the behavior onscreen may be. It allows the audience to delay judgment, but also makes it a struggle to find connections with characters. The resolutely unhurried pace also allows the story to open up in its own time, while it tests audience patience. But his tale is worth the effort.

Mungiu has a tragic love story to share, tragic because it finds itself inside a culture in which progress and superstition embrace, perhaps because neither serves the population particularly well on its own.