The second film I saw today again turned on its female characters’ storylines. Beyond the Hills (Dupa Dealuri) is the second feature by Cristian Mungiu, who rose to prominence with the much lauded 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Like that film, Beyond the Hills feels destined for controversy. For the last two years in Cannes there have been several pro-religion, pro-god movies that are, frankly, a chore to sit through if you aren’t a believer. But Mungiu’s film is anything but.
The story centers on a passionate “friendship” between two teenage girls which comes under strife when one of them turns to the church. She becomes a nun and takes God into her heart as her one and only love. Her friend has a problem with this. She wants things to be the way they once were. Sex between them is alluded to but never directly confirmed. Once Alina (Cristina Flutur) figures out that her friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) is never going to leave the church, her behavior becomes more and more violent. Finally, the father of the church decides to perform an exorcism on her to get rid of Satan’s grasp.
Unfortunately, by the time we finally get to the exorcism, the film has gone on at least an hour too long. Had they shaved off some of the beginning we might be more inclined to get wrapped up in this story. However, if you are a non-believer you will find it satisfying that the film has decided to take on faith versus science.
Beyond the Hills was the first film at Cannes to receive boos — and yes, perhaps the audience were expecting something better but as far as films in general go, the selection committee did right by choosing this complicated story for the Cannes competition.
Two extraordinary films that had more to say from the mouths of their female characters than all of the films I saw last year. Here, at this festival, the films are not judged on their potential marketability but what it is they attempt to say. While many of the films do not fall into the conventional Hollywood norm, and may never make a dime, their inclusion in this festival shows that the people making the important decisions here really do consider more important elements of what a film potential might be. When you are here, the possibilities are endless. Cannes is the best place for dreams to thrive.
Printed with permission. Sasha Stone is the founder of Awards Daily.
Editors Note: Just a reminder, even if you have amazing roles about women that still does not excuse not having films represented by women directors.