Ildikó Enyedi’s first film in nearly a decade is tender, unyielding, and occasionally confusing.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
On Body and Soul is about the human connection that exists both in the tangible world as well as the world that lives in our dreams, if such a phenomenon is plausible. It is a romance between a man and a woman, both with disabilities, both craving the affection of the other even if they’re not immediately aware they are. It is a movie that seems to float aimlessly above our heads, and its conclusion, which is more or less expected, suggests that it will never stop.
That isn’t to say it is a particularly magnificent film, but some of its ideas are effective. Endre (Géza Morcsányi) is the head executive of a slaughterhouse. His left arm is crippled and his workers are professional. Mária (Alexandra Borbély) is the new quality inspector. She is detached, awkward and socially deficient. They are visually intertwined early on by separate shots of them standing idly in the sunlight, soaking in its warmth. In fact, very little of On Body and Soul takes place at night, which is not coincidence.
It is discovered, through a psychological assessment following a theft at the slaughterhouse, that both Endre and Mária share a dream in which they are deer, courting and grazing by a stream. Whether you can believe such a thing is possible depends on your willingness to disbelieve. For the sake of the film’s integrity, I ran with it.
Unfortunately, the film kinda loses its spark after that. It introduces the beguiling notion that two people can communicate emotionally via their dreams, but doesn’t really take it anywhere. Their relationship settles for being routine when it could’ve been so much more – a love formed in the infinity of dreams.
On Body and Soul is directed by Ildikó Enyedi, who hasn’t made a film in almost ten years. I admit I’m unfamiliar with her work, but it’s clear she has a pristine feel for character and isn’t afraid to show hers in compromising circumstances.
It’s by no mistake that On Body and Soul is set in a slaughterhouse, where shots of cows killed, beheaded and strung up provide a jarring counterpoint to the soft, almost plush love story. It’s a film where sweet meets sour, beautiful meets ugly, and two humans meet each other from across space and time.
On Body and Soul is available in Australian cinemas from May 10
Image courtesy of Daricheh Cinema