Movie Review - On Body and Soul (Oscar Nominee)

This movie is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards. It was submitted from Hungary. It premiered at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival where it won three awards, including the Golden Bear. It's not often that a Golden Bear winner is nominated for the Oscar, let alone wins. The last was A Separation (2011). This movie was nominated for four European Film Awards, including European Film of the year, which it lost to Sweden's The Square, the current front-runner at the Oscars. Of all the nominees, this is the only one directed by a woman, Ildikó Enyedi. It doesn't quite rise to the level of Angelina Jolie's First They Killed My Father, which was Cambodia's submission for the Oscar, but, Enyedi's film got the nomination and Jolie's did not. Plus, Enyedi's film is an interesting story about an adult, single woman making a connection.

The film is predicated on a metaphysical idea. Two people who work together at an abattoir and who barely know each other somehow are connected psychically through their dreams. At first, both of them are two very lonely and very damaged people. Through their jobs at the abattoir or a slaughterhouse for cows, we learn about them and their various issues. The movie is divided. It starts off in the point of view of the man and then seamlessly pivots to the point of view of the woman, and it's the latter half involving her that's the most poignant, as we truly feel her loneliness and desperation just to connect with another human being.

Géza Morcsányi stars as Endre, the financial director of a slaughterhouse in Budapest. He's ostensibly the boss of a certain aspect of this factory that kills cows and prepares meat for grocers. He's middle-aged. He doesn't seem to have many friends. He does eat lunch every day with the same guy but their relationship doesn't appear to be too deep. He seems to go home to bed alone every night. His outstanding feature is that his left arm is crippled or paralyzed. It hasn't been amputated, but it's seemingly dead. He can't use it at all.

Alexandra Borbély co-stars as Mária Rácz, the new quality inspector at the slaughterhouse. Her job is to grade the cows and meat to make sure it's up to certain standards. She's younger than Endre, probably only in her mid to late twenties, maybe early thirties. She's an incredibly shy blonde who isn't very personable and who others mock as acting robotic. She does act like a robot, lacking in charm or proper social grace. She does require therapy, as she has an issue with physical contact. It's assumed she's never had an intimate relationship ever. She also has an abnormal memory in that she knows exactly everything anyone has ever said to her in its exact chronological order.

Enyedi's film is about how these two unlikely people come together and fall in love. It's quirky and it's weird, which is fine, as the two characters are quirky and weird. Where the film loses me is the ending, which suggests that Mária needs Endre to love her or be with her, or else she'll commit suicide. Having this relationship shouldn't be what keeps her from killing herself. Plus, Enyedi doesn't do much with the metaphysical idea besides manifesting it with some well-trained deer in a snowy forest.

Not Rated but contains sex and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 55 mins.

Available on Netflix.


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