On Body and Soul

A slaughterhouse serves as the setting for this darkly comic and genuinely unsettling film from Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi.  Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival it is a beautiful film in many ways despite several shocking and disturbing moments.

Endre is the financial director at the slaughterhouse.  He is a quiet man, reserved even, seemingly happy in his rather solitary life.  The one thing that sets him apart is his “dead” arm…a disability that is left unremarked on until he decides to approach the new quality inspector Maria in the canteen.  This is the first hint that Maria may be autistic, an impression that is confirmed by other behaviours as the film progresses 

When a theft of mating pills (industrial strength Viagra bulls) leads to the police suggesting psychological assessments of the employees both Endre and Maria reveal that they have been having the same dream…but from different perspectives.  In the dream Maria is a doe in a frozen wood while Endre is a stag.  These two beautiful creatures search for grass, drink from a stream and gently nuzzle.  They are in love.

The two humans decide to pursue this dream love in the real world, a task that proves much more difficult than either could have imagined.

A simple enough story but one that is elevated from the ordinary to the extraordinary by the power of the performances, the beauty of the cinematography (that even imbues the terror of the slaughterhouse with Grace and delicacy) and, of course, the dream sequences where despite the lack of any dialogue one feels that one can hear everything that is being communicated by the two deer.

This is art house cinema and is a world away from the local multiplex but it is a film that speaks to one of the things we all have in common; the need to be loved and to love.  Delicate, exquisite, charming, horrifying and thought provoking.  A film that deserves a much wider audience.

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