IT’s an odd love story, to say the least.
Deer frolicking – or wanting to frolic — in a frozen forest, is the opening sequence of Body & Soul (Hungrarian title, A Teströl És Lélekröl), segueing into the modern workings of an abbatoir.
There’s a new quality inspector, Maria (Alexandra Borbély) at the slaughterhouse, and its director-financial controller, Endre (Geza Morcsanyi), feels she’s not quite cut out for the job.
You soon realise the introspective, somewhere-on-the-autistic spectrum Maria has some psychological personality issues, but so does Endre, who seems to have been emotionally wrung out from his experiences which include a paralysed arm.
We watch Maria role-play her conversations with Endre at her monastic flat, realising she has extreme phono-logical memory.
One day, some mating powder used for the animals goes missing at the abattoir. Police are called in and the staff undergo a routine psychological testing.
When it turns out that Maria and Endre have the same dream every night, they are both intrigued, while the woman psychologist is upset as she thinks they are playing a trick on her.
The two continue comparing dreams, where they seem to be deer drawn to each other.
It’s obviously a harmony that they cannot seem to find in their real, and lonely lives. But it’s beautiful to see them try.
All this takes place amid the efficient running of the abattoir, sometimes filled with gruesome, bloody scenes.
According to the director, Ildikó Enyedi, who also wrote the script, the tale is a mirror of Western society where, after losing the comfort of the ritual frames of religion, many are left clueless how to deal with the most important moments of life: birth, love, death. So, practicality takes over, dehumanising everything and everyone.
The movie, through its beautiful cinematography, show that Maria and Endre are not introverted people but wounded. They are like the cattle at the abattoir — sitting peacefully, in silence, waiting to be killed. Dehumanised in a way.
Body & Soul is about how we choose to live our life, and how love can bloom in the strangest place.
The movie, under GSC International Screens, won the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear, critics’ and audience awards.
Kudos to the leads, Borbély and Morcsanyi, for their natural performances on screen. Borbély is better known for theatre in her home country while this is Morcsanyi’s screen debut. He is, in fact, the director of a prestigious publishing house in Hungary.
Body & Soul is a quiet film that unexpectantly leaves you moved, with its undercurrents of passion. Watch it with eyes wide open.
** Pix from YouTube