On Body and Soul

ABR Arts is generously supported by ABR Patrons and Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.
Dilan Gunawardana Monday, 07 May 2018
Published in ABR Arts

On Body and Soul opens to a stag and doe wandering in a snowy forest to the slow, meditative sound of wind chimes and cowbells. The stag sniffs the doe cautiously and then tenderly rests his head on her back for a few seconds before she canters away, leaving the stag looking forlorn. Edited in a way that anthropomorphises the animals’ interactions, this is a beautifully composed scene reminiscent of later David Attenborough documentaries. Before the viewer can roll their eyes at the prospect of sitting through a saccharine arthouse film bogged down with heavy-handed visual metaphors, On Body and Soul neatly subverts those expectations by weaving these scenes into its bizarre and compelling premise.

Mária (Alexandra Borbély) arrives at an industrial beef slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Budapest to begin work as the new quality inspector and immediately piques the interest of the facility’s much older CFO, Endre (Géza Morcsányi). She appears to be on the autism spectrum and alienates her co-workers with her shyness and eccentric behavior. Sensing a kindred damaged spirit, Endre is drawn to Mária, though initially he receives no greater regard than the meat she inspects. When a jar of powder, used to induce mating in the livestock (and humans), goes missing from a medicine cabinet, a psychologist is tasked to conduct interviews with each of the staff as part of a police investigation to unmask the sex-crazed culprit. When Endre and Mária are separately psychometrically assessed, it is discovered that they share the exact same dream each night, of a stag and a doe in a snowy forest and interacting as a loving couple. Endre and Mária hesitantly accept the intimacy experienced in this dream, but as the superficially mismatched pair draws closer they struggle to overcome deep-seated psychological issues.

In conceiving On Body and Soul, writer and director Ildikó Enyedi’s aim was ‘to show an overwhelming, passionate love story in the least passionate and overwhelming way’. With her first feature film in eighteen years, the Hungarian auteur has done so by crafting a thoughtful, quirky, poetic character study of two broken people, laced with dark humour throughout.

Sign up to the fortnightly ABR Arts e-bulletin for news, reviews, and giveaways

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in ABR Arts
Dilan Gunawardana

Dilan Gunawardana

Dilan Gunawardana is an arts journalist and graphic designer. He is a former Deputy Editor of Australian Book Review (2017-18). He holds a Masters Degree in Communications and Media Studies at Monash University, and was the recipient of the Dean's Award for Academic Excellence. He has previously worked in media and communications roles for various organisations.

Social Profiles

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.