Cosmina Stratan

review beyond the hills

Editor’s note: Daniel Walber’s review originally ran during NYFF 2012, but we’re re-running it as the film’s limited theatrical release begins today. American cinema has had a recent fascination with cults, from last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene through the recently released Scientology-inspired epic, The Master. These films primarily focus on charismatic leaders and their relationship with a single victim, regardless of whether that leader is a remote farm-dwelling mystic like John Hawkes in Martha Marcy or Philip Seymour Hoffman’s erudite and intellectual riff on L. Ron Hubbard. Perhaps this is because the United States has only had smaller-scale social control, individual religious sects rather than any national experiment with totalitarianism. It allows us to blame misguided obedience on a single man, however terrifying he may be. European films cut from the same cloth, on the other hand, are working with very different material. The legacies of 20th century Fascism and Communism have driven great filmmakers for decades, most recently in the former Soviet Bloc. The last decade’s renaissance of Romanian cinema has spent much of its thematic energy dealing with Nicolae Cauşescu’s dictatorship, but none until now have looked at it specifically in the terms of cult-like social control. Cristian Mungiu goes there with Beyond the Hills, a triumph of harrowing beauty that stands with the best films of the Romanian New Wave.

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Michael Haneke on set of Amour (Love)

As we all know, “Palme d’Or” is French for Feather Button Hand of Gold Achievement. Or something. Google Translate wasn’t loading this morning. Regardless, it’s as prestigious as awards get, although it hilariously almost never lines up with the Oscars (for good reason). Past winners include Barton Fink, Taxi Driver, MASH, The Third Man, Black Orpheus, La Dolce Vita, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and nearly one hundred other films that should be on a rental queue somewhere. That list also includes Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon which took the price in 2009 and, as of yesterday, his latest film Love (Amour). That’s 2 wins for the director in 4 competition years. It ties him for Most Palmes d’Or Ever (no director has won more than two), where he joins Alf Sjoberg (Iris and the Lieutenant, Miss Julie); Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now); Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror, The Best Intentions); Emir Kusturica (When Father Was Away on Business, Underground); Shohei Imamura (The Eel, The Ballad of Narayama); and The Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, The Child). It’s a stellar achievement deserving of a long standing ovation than the one that The Paperboy got. The full list of winners (from the festival website) is as follows:

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