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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Beyond the Hills - Film Review

by Carola A.

Beyond the Hills is based on true events and a non-fiction novel by Tatiana Niculescu Bran. It involves two young women who grew up together in a Romanian orphanage. There are no prospects in their poor village, especially not for women. When they are forced to leave the orphanage at age 18, Alina tries to escape this misery by going to Germany for work; Voichita stays and joins a remote monastery led by a self-appointed priest (Valeriu Andriuta).

This monastery is not only a place for women who feel a religious calling, but for some a haven from spousal abuse and economic uncertainties. The women who come here submit to the rules of the priest – “Papa” as they address him - and relinquish all responsibilities & decisions to him. Alina visits Voichita to take her back to Germany with her, but finds to her utter disbelief that her friend is not willing to leave; she claims she wants to dedicate herself to God. Alina can’t accept that her friend submits to this hard life under the order’s rules; she becomes increasingly desperate that Voichita’s desire to stay is greater than her love for her. The order on the other hand feels threatened by Alina’s disrespect and alarmingly distressing behavior. A tragedy is in the making. Memorable are the performances of Casmina Stratan (‘Voichita’) and Cristina Flutur (‘Alina’) under the direction of Cristian Mungiu (direction and script), mesmerizing the cinematography by Oleg Mutu.

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