Ken Loach from Britain and Cristian Mungiu from Romania have something unique in common: they have both won the Palme d'Or. Their latest films were lauded at the Cannes Festival and are now finally available on DVD.
Not every movie fan can afford to travel to Cannes. But that's not necessarily a hindrance - as a general rule, those works that have won awards at the world's most important film festival make it to the movie theaters a few months after their premiere at the Croisette. Then, some time later, they are generally available on DVD and Blu-ray. That holds true especially for winners of the Palme d'Or.
A European social critic in the cinema
In 2006, Ken Loach won the prestigious award for his film "The Wind That Shakes the Barley." More recently, however, in a film that is likely to be the last work from the 78-year-old British filmmaker, "Jimmy's Hall" saw its world premiere in the competition at Cannes last year. Now available on DVD, the film tells the story of a young man who returns to his Irish hometown after many years in exile in the US. He had once founded a ballroom there, and now he is urged by the village youth to reopen it. After hesitating, Jimmy decides to act.
Ultra-conservative church of Ireland
But in 1932, the Catholic Church still plays a powerful role in Ireland. Its ultra-conservative ideals do not match up with the dreams and desires of young people who love to dance and listen to music. "Jimmy's Hall" is a socially critical period film, but certainly not Loach's most convincing work. Lacking the sharpness of the director's previous works, the film almost oozes with melancholy as is typical for films of aged directors. Nevertheless, "Jimmy's Hall" is well worth a view.
Winning several awards in Cannes
By contrast, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu seems to be at the zenith of his creativity. One year after Loach's triumph in Cannes, he took home the Palme d'Or for his impressive and disconcerting abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days." Three years ago he was back at the festival, this time with "Beyond the Hills" (main picture). This film was also showered with prizes at the Croisette: Mungiu was awarded the Palme d'Or for the best screenplay, and the two leads jointly won the award for best actress. And they deserved it.
"Beyond the Hills" is a masterly film about the tragedy of two young women in a Romanian monastery. The story captured by Mungiu is based on a true story that had occurred a few years before. Alina and Voichita grew up together in an orphanage, developing close ties. Now Alina has returned from Germany and visits her old friend at her new home: a secluded Orthodox monastery. Alina wants to persuade Voichita to go with her to Germany to find work and a better life there.
Common religious themes
But Voichita has already found a new anchor in her life. In the monastery, she has found her way to God. Alina, however, refuses to accept and is determined to turn the rigid order of monastic life upside down - enraging the institution's head.
The cleric concludes that Alina's obstinacy must be the work of the devil. What follows next is an act of exorcism - with fatal consequences. Mungiu's movie is shocking in its statement, but the director's narrative remains just as calm as in "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days." Precisely because of that he captivates the viewers' attention. A true masterpiece of European cinema!
Ken Loach's film "Jimmy Hall" and Cristian Mungiu's film "Beyond the Hills" are now available on DVD.