After The Orphanage.
- Beyond the Hills review by NC
After the compulsive '4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days' Cristian Mungiu has made another film concentrating on the bond between two young women that goes way beyond friendship.
Right from the start we see there is something wrong with Alina as she clasps Voichita too tightly, too long. Alina needs help, both socially and medically, but every road she travels towards salvation is blocked. Her previous relationship with Voichita (there is a hint it may have been sexual, or at least sensual) cannot be resumed as Voichita is now a nun in a rigid Orthodox order. Erstwhile refuges such as the orphanage and foster parents can no longer look after her. When her condition deteriorates and she is taken to hospital, the health service is quick to free its hands of her. The last hope is the convent, but in a world where love and understanding is reserved solely for people who follow the Father's word without question, that hope is doomed.
Mungiu seems to deliberately distance us from the characters. Fragmentary information about the past give some clues, but not all. How has Alina managed to live with her condition till now? It is obviously a society of very few options for orphanage girls, but did Voichita enter the convent willingly, or because it was either that or the streets? Voichita appears to have no personal relationship with God, but simply parrots the Father. A rule book with over 400 sins which must not be transgressed is read so quickly its content becomes meaningless.
Romanian orphanages were headline news a few years ago. But what happened when the kids grew up and left? With preparations for life at a bare minimum, tragedy will always be looking over the shoulder.
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