Monday, February 26, 2018

Review of 'On Body and Soul'

A Hungarian romantic drama, mainly set in a slaughterhouse - sounds like an insane 1970s arthouse project, but was actually one of the most moving films I've seen for a long time.

The film centres on the slaughterhouse's financial director and a new external meat inspector, who is a stickler for the regulations in the way that her predecessor wasn't. There is an alert at the plant because some 'cattle mating drug' has been stolen and used at a party, and the police suggest that all the staff undergo psychological screening. The psychologist asks all the staff really very prurient questions about their sex lives and histories, during which it emerges that the finance director and the inspector are meeting in their identical dreams, in which they are both deer.

That's the only fantastical element; it's not explained, but it makes the rest of the plot and development possible. The inspector is a high functioning and ethereally beautiful woman with severe asperger's syndrome. She continues to visit her child psychologist and resists his suggestions that she see an adult therapist. The finance director gradually falls in love with her, despite (or because of?) her alien-ness - she makes Saga Noren from the Bridge, the beautiful blond aspergers detective from The Bridge, look well-adjusted. Their relationship and how it develops is the centre of the film, but there is plenty of other character development and interaction. The sexy pyschologist (RĂ©ka Tenki) is remarkable.

The cinematography is understated but remarkable; the deer are beautiful, and in a beautiful winter forest landscape, but the cows in the industrial setting of the slaughterhouse are also beautiful - there are lots of close-ups of their faces and eyes. And it's possible to infer from some other details (for example, what the characters wear) that it's the height of summer, and therefore hot, but it never looks like it is; it somehow manages to be literally gloomy, both indoors and outdoors.

Watched at the Lansdown Film Club in Stroud, with less than a dozen other people in the audience.

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