Romanian drama 'Beyond the Hills' sets lesbian characters back years
The award for one of the most backward portraits of lesbians in recent film history would have to go to "Beyond the Hills" opening in San Francisco March 15. The film is set in a Romanian convent where a young woman comes to visit her past lover after working in Germany. They had plans to live together and Alina (Cristina Flutur) was even saving up to buy land for a home. But Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) decides she doesn't want to leave the monastery with her and Alina flips out.
The "Father" and "Mother" as they are called of the monastery do a "pray in", chaining Alina to a wooden board in a bizarre sort of exorcism. The treatment raised the eyes and ears of critics in the recent Cannes Film Festival and it was considered a front-runner for the Palme d’Or. You could either love it or hate it. The film is an indictment on the religious and medical persecution of "hysterical" women, who usually have some background that qualifies them to be "hysterical", as in this case.
The actresses in the film, Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan, shared the award for best actress but the consensus of the critics is that this was not an exceptional Cannes festival year.
Director Christian Mungiu won the best screenplay for the film and this must have been because of the cinematography that adorns this barren story.
To create a lesbian couple where only one of the two is willing to admit it, and the other in the worst throws of unrequited love keeps hurling herself at a religious fanatic, her former girlfriend, is a screenplay nightmare considering all the inroads that have been made about lesbian characters in recent years. It would be well to avoid Romanian monasteries for the adventuresome lesbian of today. Run for the hills! There are no good female role models in the film either, where nuns try to remedy the two girls and get Alina to calm down and pray to God to be relieved of same sex love. All rely on the priest who is the father figure of the convent and who tries to be a father to the wayward lesbians amidst his Christian colony.
Not even the jury of the Queer Palm felt this picture of a closeted lesbian and a victimized love addict was strong enough to motivate an award in opposition to the ideas of the official jury. Take note that jury decisions at film festivals are arbitrary but the Cannes awards for this film were eye-opening.