Monday, May 21, 2012

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: Cristian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills"

Sorry for the weekend break. I needed some time to catch my breath and put my thoughts back together after a short stunting of inspiration. How can you blame me? It's been a tough Cannes Film Festival so far, with very little that really exceeds beyond the degree of "yeah, that's good." And there's quite obviously a large void between different opinions, this year being the most salient example we've seen in a while. Just look at Cristian Mungiu's follow-up to "4 months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days", which has divided people definitively in their opinions. In regards to "Beyond the Hills", some love it quite unapologetically, others remark their disappointments, and some just nod their heads in solid, though not ecstatic, approval. No bad film by any judgment, but it doesn't seem to be sweeping the floor with the competition.
Stephen Dalton (Hollywood Reporter): "Admittedly two and a half hours of thwarted love and spiritual torment is something of an endurance test, especially considering the action rarely ventures outside its single bleak location. The film’s mid section, especially, feels slow and repetitive. Only during the final act, mostly shot in snow, does Mungiu remind us of the tightly wound tension and crisp visual composition that made 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days such a powerful thriller. Beyond the Hills is less fun than any film about lesbian nuns and their psychotic ex-lovers ought to be. But it is an engrossingly serious work, and confirms Mungiu as a maturing talent with more universal stories to tell than those defined by Romania’s recent political past."
Mike D'Angelo (A.V. Club): "Mungiu winds up making what seems to me a fairly emphatic judgment. I happen to agree with said judgment (quasi-spoiler: I’m an atheist), but that doesn’t make the movie any less unproductively dogmatic. These two young women seem more like pawns than did Otilia and Gabriela in 4/3/2, and the film as a whole has the authoritative certitude of a thesis statement; I kept waiting for some sort of troubling complication, but waited in vain. Mungiu has few peers when it comes to formally rigorous nail-biters, but I’d like to see him tackle material he’s more conflicted about."
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian): "Mungiu shows that Voichita could quite easily have taken the decision to abandon the way of faith and leave the country with Alina: and we discover that the German connection appears to have arisen from a certain sleazy individual from Germany who was permitted to take "photos" of the orphanage girls in return for gifts. Maybe the work in Germany that awaits the two women isn't exactly waitressing. But the papers were not in order, so their destinies are arbitrarily shifted another way: Alina comes to live in the orphanage, where Voichita infuriates her by talking about God all the time. Alina's disruptive, sexually threatening presence causes mayhem from almost the very beginning; she acts out her own frustration and self-sacrificially intuits Voichita's."

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