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Beyond the Hills(2012)
Dark Romanian drama following two young women at odds with their past. Voichita (Cosmina Stratan)'s new life at an isolated convent is threatened when her old friend Alina (Cristina Flutur) appears in the hopes of taking her to Germany. At first they are happy to be reunited but Voichita begins to infuriate Alina with her new found faith and refusal to bend to her will, causing their relationship to deteriorate. Not only does Alina's presence cause disruption to Voichita but the whole community feels the strain of her ungodly ways and they begin to believe she is possessed. Alina then falls victim to the religious order of the convent and is forced to withstand a series of exorcism attempts at the hands of the priest (Valeriu Andriuta).
For more about Beyond the Hills and the Beyond the Hills Blu-ray release, see Beyond the Hills Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 12, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Valeriu Andriuta
Director: Cristian Mungiu
» See full cast & crew
Beyond the Hills Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 12, 2013
Winner of Best Actress and Best Screenplay Awards at the Cannes Film Festival, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's "Dupa dealuri" a.k.a "Beyond the Hills" (2012) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The only supplemental feature on the disc is an original trailer for the film. In Romanian, with imposed English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
After years of working in Germany, Alina returns to Romania to meet her best friend, Voichita, who has become a nun in a small monastery. At the train station, Alina hugs Voichita and begins to cry.
On the way to the monastery, the two women barely talk. They carefully observe each other as if to make sure that they look exactly as they did when they parted ways.
Before dinner, Voichita casually asks the only priest (Valeriu Andruita) in the monastery if Alina can stay with her because she does not have a place to go to. The priest reluctantly agrees, but urges Voichita to see if Alina can eventually return to the local orphanage where the two girls used to live together.
Later that night, Alina realizes that convincing Voichita to leave the monastery and travel with her to Germany might be an impossible task. Throughout the night, Alina repeatedly tells her that God now has a very important part in her life and that she has chosen a path which she intends to follow.
Voichita becomes seriously frustrated with Alina. And when she eventually attempts to explain to her that she does not have much time left, because she could lose her job in Germany, Alina reacts in a way that seriously angers her. Voichita openly confronts her friend, and immediately inspires a series of comments from the rest of the nuns in the monastery. A few of them even suggest that Alina's presence in the monastery is the Evil One's way of testing the strength of their faith.
Christian Mungiu's first film since his brilliant 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days tells two very different stories. The first is about two former lovers who reunite, but come to realize that their views of the world they share have become so polarizing that they can no longer comprehend each other's priorities.
The second story is about a country that has essentially collapsed after it has discovered democracy. The debates between the priest and the nuns and the manner in which they deal with Alina's anger are absolutely mind-boggling. While watching these people rationalize their actions, I could not stop thinking of Pavel Lungin's equally fascinating period drama Ostrov (The Island). Of course, the big difference here is the fact that Beyond the Hills takes place in present days and its surreal environment is actually part of Romanian reality. (It is difficult to describe how utterly unsettling it is to observe people using religion to justify absolutely absurd logic that allows them to commit crimes in the name of their God).
The film is deceivingly subdued. The camera movement is very elegant and everyone but Alina appears genuinely calm. Behind the serene images, however, there is much pain and disappointment that a country can so convincingly lose its sense of identity.
The film's success at the Cannes Film Festival is well deserved. Stratan and Flutur are astonishingly good. Andriuta's time in front of the camera is limited, but he also leaves a memorable impression as the stern priest.
Acclaimed cinematographer Oleg Mutu (Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Sergei Loznitsa's My Joy) lensed the film. Mutu and Mungiu also worked together on 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
Beyond the Hills Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
Excluding some extremely light banding that quickly appears early into the film, the presentation is indeed very impressive. Depth and detail are excellent during close-ups and wider panoramic shots. Clarity is also outstanding. Even the nighttime footage looks terrific (see screencaptures #16 and 17). Color reproduction is also enormously pleasing. There is a wide range of strong and natural colors that never collapse or feel boosted. There are no traces of problematic lab corrections. Also, there are no serious transfer specific anomalies to report in this review. Overall image stability is also terrific. All in all, this is a near flawless presentation of Beyond the Hills that should make fans of director Mungiu's work very happy. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Beyond the Hills Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: Romanian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Romanian LPCM 2.0. For the record, Artificial Eye have provided imposed English subtitles for the main feature (they cannot be turned off from the main menu or with the remote control). They appear inside the image frame.
Depth and especially clarity are excellent. Even seemingly random noises are incredibly crisp and easy to identify (the wind blowing in the back, chatter, a car engine, etc). Surround activity is extremely limited, but this such is the film's original sound design. The dialog is exceptionally crisp, stable, and very easy to follow. Also, there are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Beyond the Hills Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Beyond the Hills Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills is easily one of the top five films to reach my desk this year. It is as emotionally devastating and hauntingly beautiful as Andrey Zvyagintsev's The Banishment and as thought-provoking as Pavel Lungin's The Island. I liked this film even more than the Romanian director's superb 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days. Kudos to Artificial Eye for consistently bringing the best world films to Blu-ray. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Beyond the Hills Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Cristian Mungiu's Beyond The Hills Detailed - April 10, 2013
British distributors Artificial Eye have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray acclaimed director Cristian Mungiu's Dupa dealuri a.k.a Beyond the Hills (2012), starring Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, and Valeriu Andriuta. The release will be ...
• Artificial Eye: Mungiu and Egoyan Films Coming Up - February 21, 2013
British distributors Artificial Eye have informed us that they are planning to release three films on Blu-ray in June: acclaimed Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills (2013), and Canadian director Atom Egoyan's Next of Kin (1984) and Family Viewing ...
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