Only Hipster Left Alive


, , , , , , , , ,

Only Lovers Left AliveJim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive mourns the demise of a beautiful scene—a cultured hipster vampire scene that has lasted for hundreds of years. Now mortals—or zombies, as the vampirati ironically call them—are destroying nature, the root of all beauty, and cutting the blood supply with bad stuff. Brilliant and wise vampires, such as the 500 hundred year-old playwright, Christopher Marlowe, are dying of it. And who knows? In this fallen age, maybe vampires themselves are passing tainted hemoglobin for money or kicks.

Secreted away in a velvety-dark mansion in feral Detroit, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) composes experimental music on analog equipment, buys blood from a louche hospital employee, and loads his gun with a wooden bullet to shoot into his own heart when he can’t take the zombies for one more century. His long-time wife, Eve (Tilda Swinton), finds the gun on a visit from her home in Morocco, and pleads with Adam to cheer up. Their love, still passionate, abides separation; time is on their side. That is fortunate, since the nearly-albino Eve loves the hot white nights of Tangier as much as the raven-tressed Adam thrives in the dank urban underbrush.

Less gloomy than Adam, Eve too must face the possibility of expulsion from Eden after her callow younger sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), shows up at Adam’s house. A modern take on The Big Sleep’s thumb-sucking party girl, Carmen Sternwood, Ava is wont to break into her brother-in-law’s stash, gulping down the blood that her betters sip from sherry glasses–and no wonder, since the pure elixir affects those who imbibe it like a heroin smoothie. One night, Ava brings home an admirer, sucks his blood, and leaves him for dead. Adam and Eve send her packing, but now they too must skip town. After a grueling trans-Atlantic flight without nourishment, the couple are fading by the time they arrive in Morocco, only to find that their connection has fallen through. It looks like the end.

The film’s title has a double meaning. Lovers—that is, the vampirati—are the only creatures left on Earth who are truly alive: to beauty, to nature, to art, to the art of love. What’s more, Adam and Eve, as the blood supply dries up, are virtually the only cool vampires left alive, and perhaps not for long. Charming and visually exquisite, the film is an elegy for a lost sensibility, wrought by a director who once found this world stranger than Paradise.

Night Moves, directed by Kelly Reichardt


, , , , , , , , , ,

Night MovesNight Moves is a neatly constructed thriller, a swerve toward classicism after Reichardt’s deconstructed Western, Meek’s Cutoff.

Here, the planet is dying—not apocalyptically, but golf course by clear-cut mountainside. The film’s Oregon looks just like the actual Oregon, but, instead of ignoring the signs like the most of us, the film’s young protagonists register each depredation on the trajectory toward ecological disaster. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), who lives in a handsome yurt on the communal farm where he labors, silently grieves for the natural world. He barely speaks to other people. Dena (Dakota Fanning), a therapeutic masseuse at a New Age spa and member of the farm’s extended network, lucidly quotes the statistics and chafes to do something.

Having previously worked together on smaller actions unwittingly bankrolled by her wealthy family, Dena and Josh now conspire to explode a dam that is destroying a river valley east of Portland. Josh believes that this event will make people think, bring them to their senses. What Dena hopes to accomplish is not clear, but in the face of the facts she cannot do nothing.

The two hook up with a third party, Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard, perfectly typecast), an ex-con living in a trailer in the woods and working at one of those golf courses. Older, cooler, and craftier than the others, he loves the land without signing up for any utopian programs. He can live with moral contradictions.

The plan is to load a motorboat with sodium nitrate fertilizer and a timer, stake it to the dam under cover of night, row to safety, and avoid contact with each other for the foreseeable future. After an increasingly breathless series of crises—the feed store will not sell Dena the fertilizer without a Social Security card, a fellow ex-con IDs Harmon at a breakfast joint, a tourist stops to repair a flat on the road above the dam just as the saboteurs start the timer—the deed is done.

This is hardly the climax of the film, however, but merely the catalyst for its real conflict. In true Hitchcockian fashion, the perpetrators show up for work the next day to hear that a camper has been killed in the incident. If they are caught, they will go to jail for life. If they are not caught, they will live with a murder on their conscience, a heavy secret for the young idealists Josh and Dena. They can pull off the crime, but can they handle the subsequent tension? Can they trust each other not to crack?

Reichardt creates complex female characters on difficult journeys, such as the vagabond on her way to Alaska in Wendy and Lucy and the pioneer Emily Tetherow in Meek’s Cutoff (both played by Michelle Williams). While Josh is the main protagonist of Night Moves, Dena’s character depicts the plight of a smart young woman in post-feminist America.

When we first see Josh and Dena, scoping out the dam, we notice that her jeans are tighter than his and that she plays with her hair, the telltale marks of female redundancy beside the self-sufficient male. When she tries to make conversation with her tightly-wound, barely civil accomplice or prepares sandwiches for the team before the big action, she is doing women’s work. When she asserts herself in a disagreement with the condescending Harmon, Josh barks at her to shut up. No matter how keenly competent she is, she will always be a tagalong. What does she have to do to prove herself, blow up a dam?

Gloria, directed by Sebastián Lelio (2013)


, , , , , , ,

GloriaGloria (Paulina Garcia) believes that love is the anodyne to death. As she stands in a little crowd on a street in Santiago, watching a skeleton puppet’s jerky dance, she makes up her mind to forgive Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), her spineless lover.

Rodolfo is evidently smitten with the auburn-haired Gloria, whom he has recently met at a club and taken to bed. Intimacy involves removing his bellyband, the result of intestinal bypass surgery for weight management. She takes this unromantic development in her stride.

Gloria thrives in love, bungee jumping and playing paintball at the amusement park Rodolfo owns and waxing her legs while singing romantic ballads along with the radio. Introducing him as her partner, she brings him to a small family reunion to celebrate the birthday of her son, a new father whose wife has abandoned him, and to say farewell to her daughter, who is departing for Sweden to be with her lover. As the glasses are filled and refilled, Gloria and her ex-husband laugh together over old photographs, moved by the mingled pain and happiness suffusing the room.

Suddenly everyone realizes that Rodofo has departed without a word, apparently miffed at the momentary straying of Gloria’s attention. She is humiliated and angered by his rudeness and immaturity, refusing to answer his begging messages. Then she sees the skeleton dance and picks up the phone.

To make it up to her, Rodolfo takes Gloria to a seaside resort. It is paradise, until his daughter calls him home to take care of his clinging ex-wife, who has had a minor (perhaps intentional) accident. Gloria begins to pack her bags. No, no, I am not going, he promises her. Perhaps to test his mettle, Gloria strips, rips off his protective bellyband, and mounts him.

At a candlelit dinner that evening, his mobile buzzes. Gloria laughingly lobs it into his soup. He excuses himself to use the restroom and never returns. Devastated but not defeated, she slams down a few screwdrivers and parties the night away, waking at dawn on the beach in somebody’s dinner jacket.

Back in Santiago, she unplugs the phone, vacuums her car, and showers. Then she sets out to the wedding of a friend’s daughter. As if on an intuition, she walks out to the terrace. There a white peacock magestically opens his fan for her. Similar in size and color, with feathers instead of bones, he is the opposite of the skeleton puppet and a sign of life’s wonder. Back in the dining room, Gloria’s friends call from the dance floor for her to join them. She does, at first moving hesitantly, then at last joyously. Life is the anodyne to death.

Blue Is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle), directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, adapted from the graphic novel Le Bleu est une couleur chaude, by Julie Maroh


, , , , , , , , , , ,


Are the sex scenes in Blue Is the Warmest Color too long? Are they an appropriation of lesbian sexuality for the viewing pleasure of the general public?

In a blog post written in May, Julie Maroh, who authored the graphic novel on which the film is based, described the film as as a “brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex.” In addition, Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, who play the lovers at the center of the story, accused the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, of mistreatment during filming, when (among other things) he reputedly exhorted the exhausted actresses, “Hit her! . . . Lick her snot!” Mr. Kechiche has responded by insisting that the actresses have no idea what mistreatment is, compared to working class French Arabs such as himself who are trying to make their way in the world.

In fact, the film is brilliant portrayal of first love—at least for the teenage Adele, if not for the more sophisticated art student, Emma—in which the lovers discover in each other a new world incarnate. Their love-making extends beyond pleasure to a voracious (Adele’s word) impulse to consume, incorporate, and merge with each other. If it becomes frantic and mechanical, this is what sex is like after the third or fourth orgasm: a kind of delirious agony.

Consciously or not, Mr. Kechiche revisits ground previously laid out by feminist filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman and Jane Campion, who in the films Je, tu, il, elle and Sweetie, for example, dispassionately explore female orality, the drive that leads a character to eat a whole bag of sugar with her fingers or ingest her sister’s collection of tiny porcelain horses. (In literature, see Rita Mae Brown’s self-explanatory Rubyfruit Jungle and Jewelle Gomez’ The Gilda Stories, about an admirable band of lesbian vampires.)

This is a valid and important theme, but Blue remains an ethical tangle. Mr. Kechiche’s claim that the film is about the class divisions he himself has encountered is undercut by his reputed treatment of Ms. Exarchopoulos, the blameless young actress who plays his uncultured heroine, Adele. She had it just as rough as the accomplished Ms. Seydoux, whom Mr. Kechiche has excoriated for the family connections to which he attributes her success.

And Mr. Kechiche sells his heroine short. As a student, Adele is a passionate reader who lectures her boyfriend, a math whiz, on the fascinations of La Princesse de Cleves. After she moves in with Emma, her interests narrow to cooking and sex. Yes, she becomes a dedicated school teacher, but she loses her intellectual curiosity and independence, and Emma cannot really be blamed for growing bored.

In spite of himself, Mr. Kechiche makes the charismatic and ambitious Emma a complex character and not a stock figure of privileged snobbery (or perhaps it is Ms. Seydoux who accomplishes this feat). When Emma tires of Adele, she forces the girl into someone else’s arms for solace, and then uses the infidelity as an excuse for breaking up. It is a cowardly way to end an affair, but a very human one. Perhaps it is even a kindness that only years later does Emma admit to Adele that she doesn’t love her anymore.

Whatever else his mistakes, Mr. Kechiche should not be criticized for being a man who made a film about lesbians—that time is past. It is a beautiful film, whose palette—from Emma’s hair to Adele’s dresses to the very woodwork—never palls. Mr. Kechiche may be through with Ms. Seydoux, but blue is still the coolest color.

Everyone Else (“Alle Anderen”), Directed by Maren Ade (2009)


, , , , , , , , , ,


Monkey-woman Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr), with her slim white body, short red hair, and mobile face, somewhat overwhelms her boyfriend Chris (Lars Eidinger), an emerging architect waiting to hear if he has won a prestigious prize. On vacation on the Mediterranean, Gitti wants to disco dance, to play jokes, to cuddle on the beach, while Chris sometimes tires of games and buries himself in his book. Newish lovers who have not yet moved in together, they might yet find their balance.

Whom should they encounter at the seaside but Chris’ established colleague, Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner), and his pretty wife, Sana (Nicole Marischka). At first, Chris tries to avoid his rival, but Hans insists that the two couples dine together.

Despite a lovely al fresco setting at Hans and Sana’s vacation place, the evening falters. When Hans patronizes Chris with advice, Gitti calls him on it. The others are embarrassed by her boldness. Hasn’t she understood that this is not a conversation among friends and equals (Gitti is a successful music agent) but an initiation? The protocol demands that Chris take Hans seriously and that Gitti be grateful for the attention bestowed on her man. But this is not Gitti’s kind of game.

Back at their own cottage, Chris and Gitti are no longer the same people. As Chris sulks, Gitti’s confidence erodes. Although disillusioned by his conformism, she is too in love to drop him. Instead, stiffening under the strain, she begins to train herself to be a desirable helpmeet.

Chris and Gitti entertain Hans and Sana to dinner. Things seem to be going well, until after the meal Hans swoops up Sana and throws her into the pool, dress and make-up and all. She emerges smilingly, a good sport. Of course Chris must then seize Gitti, and with the help of Hans, for she is struggling and protesting, dunk her in the drink. She emerges angry and humiliated, and stomps into the house.

People as physically enthralled with each other as Gitti and Chris do not break up easily, and the psychological tension only torques tighter as they try to sort out their feelings. She goes so far as to pack her bags, but literally faints before she reaches the door. When she awakens, he is bending over her.

In this her second feature film, director Maren Ade leaves open-ended the relationship of Gizzi and Chris. Perhaps he will gain the courage to love a monkey woman, perhaps she will learn to tone it down, perhaps they will call it quits–or perhaps they will go on as they are for some time to come.

A Woman under the Influence, Directed by John Cassavetes (1974)


, , , , , , , , ,

Cassavetes 2A woman under the influence of what: Alcohol? “Nerves”? Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands) loves her children, her husband, Nick (Peter Falk), music, people—she loves too much. She can’t turn it off or even tone it down.

When Nick brings his construction crew to the house for a meal after a long shift working for the city, Mabel dishes up the spaghetti, pours the wine, and overwhelms the shy, silent men with demonstrative hospitality, flirting in a maternal way to make them feel at home, jumping out of her seat to pinch their cheeks, until Nick barks at her to sit her ass down. After the men shuffle out in polite embarrassment, Nick assures Mabel that she hasn’t done anything wrong—it’s just that the men (especially the black men, though Nick only hints at it) would misconstrue her innocent antics. He underestimates his men, but in their name and in the name of normalcy, represented by his controlling mother (Katherine Cassavetes), Nick sends Mabel to the loony bin.

The crisis comes when Mabel gives a little party for her three kids and three schoolmates, brought to the house by their uptight dad. Mabel turns on the music to Swan Lake and joins the children waltzing and fluttering around the patio, ending in a group dying swan fall. The dad begins to think Mabel is nuts. This isn’t how adults behave.

Mabel discharges her troops to play dress-up. They are having a ball, but when her little girl Maria streaks through the living room naked, hell breaks loose. The dad storms around collecting his kids and their belongings, as Nick and his mother, damn it, come through the door. Mother-in-law bundles away the naked girl-child, Nick hits the other dad and then Mabel, and before long Nick, his mother, and the family doctor have administered the hypodermic and Mabel has gone away.

Nick’s coworker, Eddie (Charles Horvath), empathizes with Mabel, warning Nick that she is a sensitive person to be treated with consideration. Rather than understanding this as it is meant, Nick retorts, “She isn’t crazy.” The day after Mabel goes to the hospital, Nick picks a fight with Eddie (that “Mexican American” bastard), and Eddie falls to the bottom of a quarry. His body breaks in time with Mabel’s spirit. Well, his spirit is broken, too.

Mabel comes home a polished ghost, stammering responses to an assembly of her parents and in-laws. When she dares mention her shock treatments, Nick cuts her off with “the past’s the past.” At last she stands up and begs them all to leave so she can go to bed with her husband. Bleats of “not in front of the children” go round the table.

Mabel still believes that alone, away from the social situations in which she reads as a wacko, she and Nick are a team. Whether Nick believes it, Cassavetes leaves famously and heartbreakingly unanswered.

The Bling Ring (2013), by Sofia Coppola


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

If Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006) said little about old regime France, it did prepare the director to make Somewhere (2010) and The Bling Ring (2013), two much better films about celebrity and privilege shot on her home turf of Hollywood. A moralist (although a chill one), she allows the heroes of the latter two films to glimpse the emptiness behind the glitter.

The moral norm of The Bling Ring is Mark (Israel Broussard), a pretty, slightly chubby high-schooler who is adopted as a sort of mascot by Rebecca (Katie Chang), the leader of a hedonistic pack of girls. Rebecca earns Mark’s devotion by swooping him into her group and its lifestyle of shopping, clubbing, snorting, and stealing. Suddenly Mark is having fun, dancing, playing hooky at the beach, helping the girls get dressed, and amassing a trunk full of fabulous clothes. And breaking into the homes of celebrities, notably Paris Hilton, where the gang loads up on designer bags, jewelry, rolls of cash, drugs, and even a gun, all of which they nonchalantly show off to their friends.

The girls—Rebecca, Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga), and Chloe (Claire Julien)—have been taught from an early age to bully or bargain away any little obstacle in their path. Rebecca’s parents are divorced; her mother (Janet Song) disapproves of Rebecca, but her absent dad is poised to airlift her out of Dodge when things get hot. Nicki’s mom (Leslie Mann) home schools Nicki and her cousin Sam (for about ten minutes a day) in the teachings of their “church”: self-esteem, inner peace, business acumen. Mark’s parents (Stacy Edwards and Marc Coppola), affectionate and grounded, have raised him to care about other people. In spite of his current temptations, his upbringing shows when he tries to curb the girls’ excesses, such as dog-napping and waving that loaded gun around. For his pains, Sam holds the gun to his head.

Based on true events as reported in Vanity Fair by Nancy Jo Sales, The Bling Ring serves as a dark mirror to Amy Heckerling’s sunny Clueless (1995), about a Beverly Hills “ditz with a credit card” who learns her opportunistic ways at her father’s knee. But Heckerling’s Cher beguiles with charm, whereas Coppola’s crew grows more reckless and mean with each boundary they cross, exposing the aggression beneath LA’s laid-back manners and New Age spirituality.

As they reel though modern glass mansions nestled in the Hollywood Hills and throw open one Aladdin’s cave after another of celebrity closets, the kids’ nocturnal raids provide a vicarious thrill. But for these entitled children, each heist is not just a prank with swag, but also an affirmation of an ethos. The goods are for the taking. The world is a walk-in full of Miu Miu, and the key is under the mat. When they are caught on security cameras and the police descend, Mark hugs his parents and goes quietly. Rebecca tries to pin the blame on Mark. Nicki and her lawyer line up interviews with the national media, in which she describes her ordeal as a growth experience and talks about her future plans: to be the head of a large nonprofit dedicated to helping others.Image

Something in the Air (Après mai), Directed by Olivier Assayas (2012)


, , , , , , , , , , ,

ImageThe original title of Olivier Assayas’ new film, Après mai, signals that its young protagonists have arrived late to the leftist movement that crested in May 1968 with a general strike and the occupation of the Sorbonne. It is now 1970, and the group including Gilles (Clément Métayer), in their last year of high school, argue the schismatic politics of Marx and Trotsky, revolution and art. During a confrontation at the school in which a guard is wounded, student leader Jean-Pierre (Hugo Conzelmann) is arrested. He does not give the names of the others, and they graduate into the world.

Assayas portrays youth with great lyricism; the scene in 1994’s Cold Water of the all-night bonfire at a decayed estate evokes the revelers’ willingness to pursue mystery and beauty wherever they lead. In Après mai, the path branches. Gilles, a skinny mop head with puppy-dog eyes, loves the beautiful artist Laure (Carole Combes), who leaves him for the wealthy producer, Jean-Serge (Sylvain Jacques). Traveling with friends to join an activist group in Italy, he falls in with the earnest Christine (Lola Créton), who says of his love for Laure: You want to be her. In Italy, fellow-painter Alain (Felix Armand) hooks up with Leslie (India Menuez), an American flower child en route to Asia. Radical politics, sex, art, mysticism—all beckon.

But as the friends gradually peel away—Christine to make documentary films, Leslie to attend college in the U. S., Alain to paint—Gilles’ inclinations emerge. Turned off by the rhetorical films made by Christine’s collective, he lets her drift away from him, landing back, briefly, in the arms of Laure, now a drug addict.  At another of Assayas’ gorgeous episodic party scenes, this one at Jean-Serge’s sprawling country house, Gilles shows Laure his drawings of her. She says they are his best work, and he burns them: they are for her eyes only.

This time the bonfires spread, and the house catches fire. Laure stands at a window, perhaps jumps. In a final scene, Gilles watches a film of her walking toward him, blurry with sunshine. The film sacrifices Laure to Gilles; her failure as an artist ends his identification with her and immortalizes her as his muse.

Paradise: Faith, Directed by Ulrich Seidl


, , , , , , ,

Faith 2Faith

A woman, a man, a crucifix, a cat: with such slender means does Austrian director Ulrich Seidl create the complex domestic hell of Paradise: Faith, the second installment of his Paradise trilogy, between Love, about a female sex tourist in Kenya, and Hope, about a teenage girl’s sojourn at a weight-loss camp.

In Faith, Catholic Annamaria (Maria Hofstätter) takes time off from her job as a medical technician to evangelize in poor and immigrant neighborhoods, toting a statue of the virgin in a sack. In the afternoons she returns to her house, a place as geometrical and tidy as the clinic where she works, to play hymns on the harmonium, flagellate herself in front of a hefty crucifix, or scoot around the house on her knees, a cilice tied around her midriff (she sets a timer for this mortification). She appears to be quite happy, almost giddily in love with pretty, gentle Jesus, until one day her husband, Nabil (Nabil Saleh), returns after a two-year absence. Nabil’s legs are paralyzed as the result of crashing his car while drunk.

What could Jesus be thinking, to burden her with such a heavy cross as a flesh and blood man with opinions, feelings, needs, and desires? Annamaria does her duty, cooking  Nabil’s meals and making up a bed for him on the couch, but can barely abide his intrusion on the serenity she has achieved since he left. A rapprochement is out of the question—Jesus, who saved her when her life with an alcoholic spouse came to a disastrous end, has taken a spouse’s place in her bed. That Nabil does not worship Jesus—he is a Muslim, religiously tolerant but with some cultural expectations about the role of a wife—is almost beside the point. As for Nabil, he suffers sharply from Annamaria’s coldness, her rules—no TV, not even for a man who cannot leave the house—and her religious mania. When he tries to make friends with a cat staying at the house temporarily, Annamaria locks the cat—an emblem of both the rejected Nabil and her own animal nature—in the basement.

She has one moment of remorse, sobbing over the prostrate man, who has fallen asleep in exhaustion, like Mary Magdalene over the dead Christ. But when Nabil is at last goaded by frustration and the conviction of his rights as a husband into dragging Annamaria to the floor, prepared to rape her if she does not acquiesce, she is equal to the ensuing struggle. In their prolonged wrestling match, as they pant, flail, and bop each other with slippers, swaddled in the cilice of their marriage, they resemble Paolo and Francesca, circling hell in an embrace.


Beyond the Hills, Directed by Cristian Mungiu


, , , , , , , , , ,

Beyond the Hills intensifies director Cristian Mungiu’s exploration of friendship between women, already deeply examined in 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. In that film, set in authoritarian Romania, an intelligent, resourceful young woman obtains an illegal abortion for a pretty but helpless friend. In additional to enduring obstacles and risks, even to arrange for the hotel room where the procedure will take place, she sleeps with the sleazy abortionist as part of the deal. The experience scars her more than it does her friend, whom she discovers enjoying a hearty breakfast the morning after the abortion, ready to put it behind her. A new, unequal stage of the relationship begins with the protagonist’s realization that her friend cannot gauge her sacrifice.

In Beyond the Hills, Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), a young nun in a Greek Orthodox religious community in rural Romania, comes to town to meet the train of her friend Alina (Cristina Flutur), now living in Germany. In this first meeting since leaving the orphanage where they grew up, Alina clings to Voichita, sobbing. She has discovered that she cannot live without her. But Voichita has discovered God.

Beyond the Hills 1Alina, in her expedient ponytail and running suit, has chosen the West and personal freedom, while Voichita, her hair covered by a black veil, has chosen service, community, and obedience to a black-bearded patriarch (Valeriu Andriuta). When she explains to Alina that she still loves her, but that to love her more than God would be improper, Alina accuses her of parroting dogma. Yet Alina’s disrespect for Voichita’s choice—which decrees that they can no longer share a bed—does not stifle her passion for her friend. It only stokes her rebellion against the patriarch and his faith. In one of many discordant scenes, she taunts him with the proposition that a miraculous icon reputed to dwell within the inner sanctum of the church does not really exist. When he produces the image, she shatters it. She is literally an iconoclast.

Beyond the Hills 6Alina’s rage pitches her into a fit, and the nuns take her to the hospital. When she is discharged, she has nowhere to go, and the patriarch yields to Voichita’s plea to allow her to return. But the community worries about Alina’s health, physical and spiritual, and about the havoc she wreaks on their lives. Reluctantly, knowing the risk and doubting his own powers, the patriarch agrees to perform an exorcism. The nuns create a crude cross and chain Alina to it, padding the chains with rags. She resists with superhuman strength, but the nuns prevail. Hour after hour, the patriarch reads over her the scriptures banishing the devil.

In the morning, the nuns tell Voichita that her friend is at last calm, lucid, and gentle. Voichita runs to the church to find that it is true. Alina lifts her head, smiles strangely at Voichita, and collapses. Medics arrive and shoot her full of adrenaline, as if their salvation depended on her survival, but she is dead, and the religious folk are arrested. Voichita goes with them into town, although she took no part in the exorcism. She is wearing Alina’s sweater, her head is uncovered, and her eyes wear a new, unclouded expression.

Beyond the Hills is based on a nonfiction novel by Tatiana Niculescu Bran.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 373 other followers