Cristian Mungiu • Director
by Domenico La Porta
19/05/2012 - The Cannes Film Festival is well known for having launched and supported the career of many directors, and Cristian Mungiu is one of them. His Palme d'Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days [trailer, film focus] has given rise to a new age in Romanian cinema and his latest work, Beyond the Hills [trailer, film focus], confirms his serious talent (read the review). He continues to refine it in the context of a national film sector still in crisis, but it is one in which the Cannes Film Festival continues to believe, as shown by his selection for its 65th official competition.
What are the differences between this film and your last?
Cristian Mungiu : I don't think it's good to compare this film with my last. To understand this film, you have to forget what I have done before, because I did not encounter the same problems in production or shooting, and I very simply wanted to tell a different kind of story. It's not a film about friendship like in my previous film, but rather one about love and what the abandonment of love provokes in us, in the choices we make.
Who are the real culprits in this film?
The film shows us a victim, but the real culprits are not featured in this story. It's all the result of a weak educational system that was set up a long time ago and that is failing these people. What interests me is not denouncing the culprit. Choices are important. Are we always right to help others, even those we love? Do we really help them by imposing our values on them against their will? The man of faith thinks he is helping the girl, because no one else is helping her. He takes her to hospital, but the doctors can't help her and he interprets this failure as licence to decide her fate and the way she is treated. His acts correspond to his choices, but we don't really know if he was ever able to choose his beliefs or how he reached this way of life in the first place. No judgement.
Do you consider religion to be dangerous?
I try not to criticise anybody. This film discusses particular cases. There is no generalisation, and I am not describing Romanian society through this little community. A film is not able to be so all-encompassing. Beyond the Hills is more about superstition than it is about religion. It is not an analysis of religion's perverse effects, and I am not saying that people's beliefs are the same as those of the Romanian orthodox church as an institution.
Could you tell us about Oleg Mutu's cinematography?
I started to work with him when we were students. We didn't need to talk to each other a lot. We fixed a few things in the beginning, but not too much. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was very formal, but without a single angle and everything was very flat, pictorial onscreen. Here, when Oleg follows a character with his camera for eight minutes, there are moments in which what is filmed is not important, and the consciousness of what is happening takes over. Once again, the director removes himself, but this takes away none of Oleg Mutu's incredible talent without which I could not have attained this difficult result.
How has the Romanian film sector's financial crisis affected this film?
Our industry's problem is not funding, it's cultural. Films that are not entertainment are not popular in Romania. This is why we receive less money from the state for arthouse films, and why I had to look for international funding. My film will be seen much more abroad than it will be at home. That's just how it is. We have to hold on and continue to produce good quality films also aimed at the Romanian people.