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New Release Review - ON BODY AND SOUL

ON BODY AND SOUL film review
Two employees at a slaughterhouse discover they share the same the recurring dream.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ildiko Enyedi

Starring: Geza Morcsanyi, Alexandra Borbely, Zoltan Schneider, Ervin Nagy, Tamas Jordan

ON BODY AND SOUL poster


A slaughterhouse may not seem conducive to a workplace romance, but that's the setting for Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi's On Body and Soul, a film that for all its arthouse credentials, is as endearing, charming and heartwarming a romantic comedy as you're likely to find in cinemas all year.


ON BODY AND SOUL

Endre (Geza Morcsanyi, making a belated acting debut in his sixties) is the financial director of said slaughterhouse. An ambiguous accident at some point in his past has rendered his left arm limp and crippled, and as a result, Endre has done his best to avoid social interactions since. When the company's HR manager insists on Endre returning to the practice of eating his lunch with the rest of the workers, Endre spots Maria (Alexandra Borbely, a strong contender for female performance of the year), the slaughterhouse's newly hired quality inspector, an OCD sufferer whose aloofness has made her the butt of many workplace jokes.

When a consignment of mating powder is mysteriously stolen, Endre hires a psychiatrist (Jennifer Lawrence lookalike Reka Tenki) to conduct mental examinations of all the employees in the hope it will unveil some clues. During the examinations, the psychiatrist discovers that Endre and Maria both experienced the exact same dream the previous night. The following morning, the two compare notes on their dreams, and once again, they find their sleeping fantasies correspond in every way. Spurred on by this inexplicable connection, Endre and Maria embark on a journey of romantic discovery.


ON BODY AND SOUL

The withdrawn natures of both parties make this relationship a decidedly awkward one. Having shied away from human interaction, Endre must retrain himself in the simple pleasures of existence, while Maria, who has yet to really experience any conventional idea of a life, must learn to be a person from scratch. This leads to some hilarious moments as Maria explores her reductive idea of what it means to be a human. Previously terrified by the idea of physical contact, she watches hardcore porn while munching on gummy bears to gain some insight into what she's been missing out on. Figuring 'regular' people enjoy music, she visits a record store and annoys the staff by insisting on listening to a giant pile of CDs - the look of disengagement on her face as angry death metal blares in her headphones may be the image of 2017 cinema that stays with me the longest. Planning to ask Endre on a date, Maria uses a pair of LEGO figurines to act out how she imagines the interaction might go, hilariously presuming the worst case scenario.

While it offers two thoroughly charming protagonists, don't expect a Reese Witherspoon remake of On Body and Soul any time soon, as this is a film that visits some incredibly dark places, sometimes for comic effect - a suicide attempt gone wrong that wouldn't feel out of place in a Todd Solondz movie - and sometimes just to make us feel bad, like the extended blood-soaked slaughterhouse sequence that leaves you in no doubt as to where the steak on your plate comes from.


ON BODY AND SOUL

Vegans and vegetarians may struggle with some of the imagery Enyedi offers here, while meat eaters will likely be forced to examine their diets. All my life I've struggled with my conflicting love for animals and appetite for meat, and I honestly believe future generations will look back on us as savages for consuming the creatures we share our planet with. It's a conflict that appears to haunt Endre too, as he scolds one of his workers for claiming not to feel any sympathy for the animals he butchers. I don't think it's any accident that the dream shared by Maria and Endre sees the pair take the form of a stag and a doe. You certainly won't be in any mood for a cheeseburger after your screening, but you may wish to put yourself back out in the world again.

On Body and Soul is in UK/ROI cinemas September 22nd.



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