On Body and Soul – A Soulful Look into the Hearts of the Unattached.

Charming and subdued performances guide the audience through this off-kilter love story. On Body and Soul (Teströl és lélekröl) is a story we have heard before. Two opposites drawn together for a reason neither can explain. Yet, in the hands of writer and director Ildikó Enyedi, the story is told in such a beautiful and surreal way as to make it feel like a slow suspense film.

The movie opens with a long shot of a stag and doe in a forest of thin trees and falling snow. There is no noise except for the sounds of nature. The slow, sweet pace of the scene causes the viewer to feel drawn to the deer sympathetically as if we are worried a shot will suddenly ring out to disturb the serenity. The film returns to this soft imagery throughout as it is dramatically transposed with images of the slaughterhouse where the main characters work.

Endre, played by Geza Morcsanyi, is the financial director of the slaughterhouse who finds himself drawn to the new quality control inspector Maria played by Alexandra Borbely. Both Endre and Mária are withdrawn from the surrounding world in their own ways. Endre who is passed his prime seems resigned to spending the remainder of his life going from day to day hiding out in his office. His only interaction with others is the daily visit to the cafeteria or his stop at the convince store on his way home. Mária however, is withdrawn due to her inability to relate to others. She has a phobia of touch, and what could be considered an autistic intellect. Due to a theft at work, everyone is forced to take a psyche evaluation where we learn that the two deer are a shared dream between Endre and Mária.

The narrative of the film follows the two as they learn to interact with one another- not so much as to identify the cause of the shared dream, but to explore it. The performances are subtly played with movement and facial reactions so slight that they draw us into the minds of the characters. This is especially seen in the performance of Alexandra Borbely.

The film doesn’t use any soundtrack throughout which makes the whole thing feel more surreal as each step or click of a door seems to have a second meaning. The exception being a scene in a music store that shockingly blares through the speakers of the theatre as it does in the ears of Mária, who doesn’t listen to music at this point. She leaves with one CD and one song by Laura Marling that is just as haunting as the scenes that take place later in the film while the song plays.

The film closes out leaving us with a few unanswered questions, but as an audience, we don’t mind because by this point we don’t care. The only thing we care about in the end is the two main characters and how their relationship is going to play out. Even though the film is a bit long at points, the cinematography and performances will keep the audience transfixed until the end.

  • Director:  Ildikó Enyedi
  • Written by:  Ildikó Enyedi
  • Starring:  Alexandra Borbély
  • Rated: NR
  • Released: US – Feb. 2nd, 2018 | Hungary – March 2nd, 2017
  • Running Time: 1 hour and 56 minutes.

Review by Milo Denison, the author of How to Manage Your Manager and host of podcast The 80s and 90s Uncensored.

On Body and Soul Trailer

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