“On Body and Soul” – a surreal new movie by Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi – explores the relationship of men and women, the world of imagination and dreams, and the encounter of extraordinary yet typical souls, all while being absurd and realistic at the same time. Its characters are well-rounded, and lead actors Alexandra Borbély and Géza Morcsányi give them life with subtle features. This love story set in a slaughterhouse, the winner of the Golden Bear prize at Berlin’s International Film Festival, premieres in Budapest on March 2nd, and it will be shown with English subtitles.
A deer and buck wander across a snow-encrusted forest, searching for food and gradually discovering each other. Noses touch, snuffles become louder – but instead of animal noises, we hear humans. Endre and Mária, who both work at a slaughterhouse, communicate rather awkwardly in their everyday lives. However, they somehow share tender, whimsical dreams in which they manage to get closer to each other as deer. The abattoir’s finance director is a decent man with a small physical defect, due to which he’s appropriately reserved. He quickly notices Mária, the new quality inspector, who talks, walks, and works in a quite unusual way. The other workers follow the stiff woman’s every move with raised eyebrows, but Endre forms a special bond with her early on. Or does he?
The setting of the film is absurd to begin with; instead of romantically illuminated streets of Budapest, the couple meets in a violently realistic environment, with no censorship involved. The slaughterhouse is shown in
operation through some very powerful images. Could the story have taken place in a textile factory, or was the abattoir essential to further emphasize the metaphor of being an animal?
Interestingly, the supporting characters are almost invisible. No matter how much he tries to be a flirt, Sanyi, played by Ervin Nagy, just cannot catch our attention. Réka Tenki can’t charm us even as a sexy psychologist. We don’t really want the police-chief character of Pál Mácsai to be further explored, either. It’s not that they are completely uninteresting, but the two “deer” feel more important than anyone else, making us want to know as much as possible about Endre and Mária. This curious symbiosis of main and supporting characters is rather unique in Hungarian film, as most domestic productions have a gag character or two to lighten the mood when necessary. In On Body and Soul, dreams serve the same purpose with snow-encrusted landscapes, creeks, and wild animals.
We loved both the music and imagery of the film, but especially its puritanism and the two main characters. Remarkably, these
were the first leading
Alexandra Borbély and Géza Morcsányi
– while Morcsányi works in the scene of theater and acting, he’s an amateur actor. Bizarre, disturbing, comforting, and intimate. These words kept whirling around in our heads after watching the film. We recommend the work of Ildikó Enyedi to everyone who’s ever been embarrassed, finds the relationship of men and women confusing, and likes metaphors.
On Body and Soul
premieres in Budapest on March 2nd, and it will play at the Művesz, Cinema City Aréna, and Cinema City Allee
movie theaters with original Hungarian audio
and English subtitles.