On Body and Soul (3 stars)

On Body and Soul

Ildikó Enyedi is at the helm of an award-winning love story that's as curious as they come

Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, Hungarian writer-director Ildikó Enyedi's first film since 1999's Simon, the Magician is a love story like no other. Set in an abattoir on the outskirts of Budapest, it's a tale of two loners: the quiet, middle-aged Endre (Géza Morcsányi), the company's financial director, and Mária (Alexandra Borbély), the incoming quality control inspector. Younger than Endre, and undeniably pretty, Mária is also standoffish, obsessive-compulsive and rigorous at work.

Their unspoken bond becomes clear when a pharmaceutical goes missing and a psychologist (a playful Réka Tenki) is ushered in to evaluate the workers and root out suspicious behaviour. Soon, she discovers that both Endre and Mária have experienced the same dream, where they imagine themselves to be a deer in a forest. With the film opening with two deer nuzzling in a snowy woodland setting, a scenario returned to more than once, the suggestion is that these two somehow meet when asleep.

It's a curious set-up and, despite her poetic sensibility, Enyedi will undoubtedly frustrate some with her open-ended and oblique storytelling. As the title suggests, it's a film that revels as much in the physical as the spiritual. One minute we're in dreamland, the next we're watching a graphic shot of a cow being dismembered in the slaughterhouse (vegetarians be warned).

Amid this, one of recent cinema's stranger love stories emerges – complete with its very own song (Laura Marling's 'What He Wrote', which becomes the one tune Mária plays on repeat). The ethereal Borbély is particularly good here, lending the final act a real poignancy as these two lovers try to move their relationship from the secret world of dreams to something more tangible. David Lynch, perhaps, would approve.

Selected release from Fri 22 Sep.

On Body and Soul

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • 1h 56min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Ildikó Enyedi
  • Cast: Géza Morcsányi, Alexandra Borbély, Zoltán Schneider

An unusual love story set in the everyday world, based around the duality of sleeping and waking, mind and matter. As the title suggests, it's a film that revels as much in the physical as the spiritual. One minute, we're in dreamland, the next we're watching a graphic shot of a cow being dismembered in the slaughterhouse…

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