On Body and Soul


Ildikó Enyedi‘s film, On Body and Soul is a beautiful film. Slightly off-kilter but beautiful none-the-less.

Endre, CFO of a slaughterhouse, is almost universally liked within the workplace, it is clear that he has a steady life here and is content with his lot. When a replacement quality inspector, Maria, is brought in, things begin to change for both of them. She is exactingly precise and conforms to the rules, exhibiting autistic-spectrum behaviour that makes her stand out. An investigation into a theft leads to all of the employees being evaluated by a psychologist where it is revealed that both Maria and Endre are having shared dream experiences of being deer roving around the woods.

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Alexandra Borbély as Maria is just superb. Showing the behaviour of someone who isn’t comfortable with interaction and the meticulous attention to detail that she takes pride of in her job, this never falters throughout the film yet you feel close to her and feel for her situation as the film unfolds. Géza Morcsányi as Endre is himself a bit pitiful, a little bit sad but resigned to this being his life now, working and living alone. And his understanding, as they attempt to chase this connection that they have, is not going to be easy or smooth sailing at times throws a spanner in the works. But mostly it is the development of Maria as she is opening up to the idea of relationships, closeness with someone else, that is the most moving part of this film.

Beneath the layers of this film it is all about the connections: Finding a connection with someone and trying to elaborate on it. The way that this film deals with these themes is slightly surreal but also works really well to contrast the reality and the dreamlike, which has such a bearing on the central (slightly strange) characters.

This is strangely compulsive viewing, sometimes achingly slow but never boring. The soundtrack is beautiful and haunting, adding emotion to what appears to be quite stark on the outside but hides a beating heart underneath. Visually the most impressive aspect for me was the amazing contrast between the wild woods with the free-roaming deer and the almost clinical minimalism of the slaughterhouse.

Nominated for the Best Foreign Film at the 2018 Oscars, having won The Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival alongside Alexandra Borbély winning the Best Actress at the European Film Awards shows that this film has been really well received and well worth your attention.

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