A Love Unrequited – ★★★★
An Exorcism you say? Lesbian nuns you say? Well before you have another hot flush be warned the film isn’t called “Lesbian Nun Exorcism” but rather Beyond the Hills and is a poignant unsensational investigation into love, worship and good intentions.
The film follows Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), a devout nun living in a cloistered convent and Alina (Cristina Flutur), her friend who comes for a visit. The two are old friends from their shared time at an orphanage and it becomes clear that their relationship was more than merely platonic. Voichita has chosen her path as a nun and seems determined to stay the course while Alina is lost without Voichita and desperately wants her to leave and escape to Germany.
Voichita leads a very basic life in prayer and helping her other sisters cook and make goods for the local childrens orphanage. Under the guidance of Papa (Valeriu Andriuta) she strives to find the answer to her dilemma; should she stay with the orthodox order or leave and help her friend? Alina is surprised by her friend’s new found devotion to God and the church. She is suspicious of Papa and questions their very foundation. When Alina develops a fever and starts acting “irrationally” they believe that she has become possessed by an evil spirit which must be vanquished.The film is a measured examination into the difference in perceptions of an event or a person’s behaviour. The director Cristian Mungiu firmly cements himself as a director of note to emerge form the Romanian new wave. The ease of dialogue between the largely untrained acting cast is a testament to his skills as a screenwriter, which Cannes acknowledged last year. The film isn’t rushed or hurried, taking its time to show the various aspects involved in this real life case. The piece is based on the investigations of Romanian author Tatiana Niculescu Bran which she later turned into a non-fiction novel called Deadly Confession.
Both female leads shared the best actress accolade at Cannes and it’s thoroughly deserving. The love between the two is palpable and we can feel the anxiety of an unrequited and restrained love brought vividly to life due to their performances. The anguish of doing the right thing (or what we perceive to be the right thing) is a central theme of the piece and it’s obvious that there was no malice or evil intentions within any of the characters.
A slow-burning film, Beyond the Hills will leave some feeling slightly exasperated and it is by no means a horror film so aficionados be warned. An incredibly balanced film, it will leave you examining your own thoughts on devotion, love and the concept of doing the right thing.
Romania / Directed By: Cristian Mungiu / Written By: Cristian Mungiu / Starring: Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Valeriu Andriuta / 150min / Drama / Release: 15 March 2013 (Ireland, UK)