Beyond The Hills Review [Double Exposure]
The clashes between religion and secularism, often inaccurately broken down along a right-left political divide, are easiest to discuss in generalities. We can track the rising or dwindling numbers of churchgoers, the number of times “god” is invoked in a speech, or the rationale for policy proposals. Yet religion is much knottier than either the cynics or the devout would lead us to believe. Faith is certainly a question of the link between the individual and a hereafter, but in the here-and-now it is often a phenomenon of congregating bodies and beings. Christian Mungiu’s newest film, Beyond The Hills, treats religion in exactly this manner. Set almost entirely within the confines of a monastery on a hill, Mungiu never passes judgment on the veracity of these Orthodox Christians’ beliefs. This is merely a community at work, albeit one whose labor has been assigned transcendental value. The designation of sanctity is a frightening one, for in removing something from the realm of the mundane it is not only placed beyond reproach, but its position ushers in a new level of power over what is left behind. What Beyond the Hills demonstrates is that the clash between the believer and the non-believer is not merely about values, but also competing claims to authority.