Crisitan Mungiu, director of the Cannes winning film, talks about BEYOND THE HILLS

Beyond the Hills tells the story of two young girls, their friendship and the different directions their lives go in. We caught up with director Crisitan Mungiu at the Cannes press conference last year to find out more about the award winning film.

This film deals with the topic of friendship between women, which you previously addressed in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, is this something that you feel strongly about?
Crisitan Mungiu: I think it is good to see this film without containing it with the film that I did before – it is good for the film and for the audience – because I tired to make something different. After you make a film that is successful, the main question you have to ask yourself is ‘Am I going to make the film again or should I make something else?’ and I decided to make something else. I think that if we are to understand this film well, we have to clear our minds from what we have seen before because the tension and length that I had before was not appropriate for this film. I started by choosing the story, and only after I decided that this was the good story, I realised that it is about a couple of girls and a man; I never realised that it would be so similar to the one I did before. As I was advancing into writing I realised that the differences were big enough and strong enough that I did not make the same film again. For me it is not necessarily a film about friendship, it is more about love – different kinds of love – and what people do in the name of love. It is also about abandonment because one can abandon himself in the name of love and abandon his free will to make decisions with his own mind, but at the same time there is the fear that you can abandon someone who loves you. I don’t like to talk much about what the film is about because it is cinema and it is about much more than we can put into words, this is just a starting point because I would like people to watch the film and think about what the film tells them about their personal choices in life.

What are your own opinions of the characters in the film and the idea that they are victims of their own faith?
CM: I wouldn’t say they were wrong; it is very hard to say who was wrong in this film. What we have at the end of the film is a victim so someone must be wrong, but from this point on it depends from which standpoint you judge and I was trying very much to make sure that my personal point of view was not in the film. I think it’s fairer like this, to give every other character all the arguments and all the details to judge from which position he was acting and at the same time I think it’s fair to the people who are really responsible for what happened in the lives of these girls are not present in the film. Imagine that they are the product of an education that started from the age of two or three and the kind of choices that were in front of them the day they finished school was very limited. The film does not necessarily try to identify the guilty parties within the characters that you see in the film. Another thing that is important for me in the film is to ponder whether it is more important to not make an error by not doing anything, or making an error by doing something.

The Dardenne Brothers co-produced Beyond the Hills, were you influenced by their style?
CM: What happened is that after four months I watched all of their films, which wasn’t the case before, but my choice not to use music and not to abuse editing was made before that, simply because the type of cinema that I am trying to make tries to avoid the film maker present and visible and the two choices that are most visible are music, which is external for me, and editing, which shows you what is more important than something else. That is why we all made the effort to make the film in this way, because it is very complicated to find the point in space – geometrically speaking – for where you can shoot a scene that is three dimensional and still not lose much and respect this great idea of theatre, where things will happen in front of you, and you will decide what is most important. It is respect from me for my spectators; I don’t think they have to be told how they should feel, and this is why I only use music at the end credits.

Can you talk about their help and influence on the film?
CM: They were some of the first to read the screenplay. They didn’t tell me much but they said they wanted to be partners and at that moment that was very good for me.

Words: Brogen Hayes