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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • Romanian DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with Cristian Mungiu
  • The Making of “Beyond the Hills,” a documentary from 2013, produced by Mungiu
  • Press conference from the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, featuring Cristian Mungiu and actors Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Valeriu Andriu?? and Dana Tapalaga?
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer
  • An essay by film scholar Doru Pop

Beyond the Hills

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Cristian Mungiu
2012 | 152 Minutes | Licensor: Sundance Selects

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #923
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 22, 2018
Review Date: May 24, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

With this arresting drama based on notorious real-life events, Cristian Mungiu mounts a complex inquiry into faith, fanaticism, and indifference. At a desolate Romanian monastery, a young novice nun, Voichi?a (Cosmina Stratan), reunites with her former companion Alina (Cristina Flutur), who plans to take her to Germany. But Voichi?a proves unwilling to abandon her calling, and Alina becomes increasingly desperate to reclaim her devotion, putting the outsider at odds with the monastery’s ascetic priest—and precipitating a painfully misguided, brutal attempt to save her soul. A naturalistic tragedy with the dark force of a folktale, anchored by the fraught dynamic between cinema newcomers Flutur and Stratan (who shared the best actress prize at Cannes), Beyond the Hills bears powerful witness to individuals at cross-purposes and institutions ill-equipped to help those most in need.


PICTURE

Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills receives its first North American Blu-ray edition courtesy of the Criterion Collection, presented in its original aspect ratio of about 2.39:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encode is sourced from a 2K restoration scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

The image is nice, very clean and sharp, though I was never truly wowed by it. Details are strong, especially in the long shots of the surrounding landscape, but some darker interiors can come off a bit muddy with some slightly grayer black levels. Due to the effects of the cold on digital equipment, as Mungiu explains in an accompanying feature found on the disc, it was decided that film should be used, and there is a filmic quality still visible here but some darker shots look noisy.

Despite that the overall image is still pleasing enough. The photography really does look great in this film, with the numerous shots of snowy landscapes in the latter part being the stand-outs. These look breathtaking and the amount of detail found in these shots (from foot prints to tire tracks and so on) is striking. The materials are also in superb condition, nary a flaw to be seen, but as the film is so new it would have been a surprise if there was anything even mildly concerning.

In all it looks fine but it just looks like a fine presentation of a newer film, nothing any more special than that.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

One of the bigger surprises about Criterion’s release for this film and its companion title, Mungiu’s latest film, Graduation, are their respective audio presentations. I had not seen either film prior to these releases but had a general familiarity with them and from that I was expecting fairly low-key audio for both. That’s not what we get.

Though there aren’t any explosions or gun shots or fighting or anything of that nature Beyond the Hills does offer a more aggressive mix than I was expecting. Surround use is quite heavy throughout, the film really working to place you in the middle of the environment. As characters move through the farm we hear the noises from the various animals all around and when it’s windy it sounds like it’s blowing around the viewer in exterior sequences or creaking the building in interior sequences. More crowded environments or busier environments, like the village streets or the busy hospital, also present some aggressive surround activity, again placing the viewer in the middle of the action. The mix is also nice in that volume levels are nicely maintained so they don’t drown out other aspects, like dialogue (though the optional subtitles make that not too big of a concern), but still loud enough to be clearly picked up on. Range is quite wide and fidelity is superb.

Most of the dialogue sticks to the fronts, with some noticeable movement or placement in the other speakers depending on where characters are situated, but it too sounds dynamic and clear, even the low whispers spoken by our one main protagonist sounding crystal clear (I don’t speak Romanian but I felt the dialogue was sharp). Just a really nice and immersive track in all.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

At first glance the supplements look pretty standard and run-of-the-mill, material you would almost expect on any standard studio release of a film but the material provided here proves to be especially enriching. It’s hard to say which one is the best of them but the 36-minute making-of—put together by Mungiu around the time of the film’s release—is the real contender. Mungiu, narrating over behind-the-scenes footage and photographs, gets into a staggering amount of detail about every aspect of the film’s production. Mungiu of course talks about the original 2005 incident that influenced him and the long process that went into writing the script, but it’s when we start getting into the actual production from casting (which includes footage of actor Cosmina Stratan in her previous profession, that of a news reporter) to the construction of the monastery that I thought was real (spoiler alert: it wasn’t), and then the actual photography and the various surprises that always popped up where it becomes most engrossing. To an almost exasperating degree Mungiu really explains his thought process behind every aspect of the film making this one of the more insightful and rewarding making-of documentaries I have yet come across.

This is all then further expanded upon by a new interview with Mungiu, recorded exclusively for this release. Here, for another 36-minutes, the filmmaker explains his reasons for wanting to make the film, taking the original incident that inspired him and delving deep into why something like that would happen, to understand it, and find a way to translate the themes and layers he could pull from it to film. He also talks a little more about the actors and some of the technical aspects behind the film (including why he had to build a set instead of shooting on a real monastery) nicely rounding things out with the documentary. Thanks to Mungiu being very talkative and incredibly open about his film it ends up being a very engaging conversation.

Criterion also includes the 52-minute Cannes press conference conducted after the film, featuring Mungiu and actors Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Valeriu Andriu??, and Dana Tapalaga?. It starts out a little rough when—after Mungiu states he feels more comfortable speaking English rather than French—some asshole in the audience pretty much demands the filmmaker speak French (an incident that others then poke fun of throughout) but then it’s smooth sailing from there, with some decent questions being thrown at the director and his cast, everyone again being very forthcoming in their responses, when they can at least.

The disc then features 12 deleted scenes, running about 20-minutes. A couple of scenes are just straight shots (like Voichita sitting on a bench) while the rest are actual sequences, including a second confession scene. The scenes, while interesting on their own, prove unnecessary in the end since they end up being repetitive or, at the very least, already implied in other scenes that remain in the film. These are then followed by the American theatrical trailer (which plays the film up a bit more as a thriller) while the included insert offers a new essay by Doru Pop.

In the end I was pleasantly surprised by the content found here. Mungiu makes for a wonderful interview subject and his passion for filmmaking really comes through. I’m hoping for more from him when Criterion finally gets around to releasing 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.

8/10

CLOSING

A nicely rounded edition with some surprisingly rewarding features and a fine audio/visual presentation.


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