Film review: On Body and Soul – co-workers become dream lovers in Golden Bear winner
Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi returns to the silver screen with a dreamy and poetic if baffling love story between two workers in an abattoir
A blend of the corporeal and the cerebral, Hungarian writer-director Ildikó Enyedi’s first film in 18 years is a mysterious, poetic and sometimes baffling piece.
Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, On Body and Soul starts with a picture-postcard shot of two deer in a snowy woodland. Yet shortly after we’ve taken in this harmonious scene, Enyedi is transporting us to a slaughterhouse where a cow is stunned and carved up. Such juxtapositions – beauty, cruelty – are par for the director’s course.
The set-up sees two isolated co-workers in the aforementioned abattoir connect in their dreams – seemingly as the deer that open the film – but struggle to communicate amid the daily grind of their lives.
Quiet loner Endre (Géza Morcsányi) is the Budapest meat company’s financial director; obsessive Mária (Alexandra Borbély) the incoming quality control inspector. Love over bloody carcasses? It’s hardly the stuff of a Richard Curtis film, which may be why Enyedi disappears into her characters’ slumbers.
After a psychiatrist (Réka Tenki) is brought into the workplace to evaluate the workers, it becomes clear that Endre and Mária dream the same dreams. It’s a bizarre notion, but one Enyedi embraces wholeheartedly – far removed, say, from the absurdist humour of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster , which considers the metamorphosis of humans to animals.
An indulgent running time (116 minutes) and a bloody finale will leave you spent, and perhaps turned off, but admiring of an ambitious filmmaker in full flow.
On Body and Soul opens on August 17
Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook