On Body and Soul

ROMANTIC DRAMA; 1hr 56min (Hungarian with subtitles)

STARRING: Géza Morcsányi, Alexandra Borbély

Borbély at work


As relationships go, Endre and Mária’s is as up against it as any partnership could possibly be. He’s the financial director of an abattoir (not the ideal venue, obvs) and she’s its younger and patently strange quality inspector. Socially awkward and remote as an automaton, Mária is instantly unpopular with the pragmatic staff, who nickname her Snow White and snipe about her seeming coldness. That might have been the end of the potential affair if it weren’t for their chance discovery that Endre (Morcsányi) and Mária (Borbély) share the same, ethereal dream of being a stag and a doe in a snowy forest.

 

Their mutuality changes everything. As interspersed by writer-director Ildikeó Enyedi with the bloody and crushing grind of the slaughterhouse, the wordless beauty of the dreams transcend the limitations of two people who’ve resigned themselves to their limitations. In time, even Enyedi’s most prosaic scenes begin to feel like a dream. A coffee pot on a stove, a mug rotating in a microwave and a face in closeup take on their own hypnotic cadence. Which is all very artistic, tra la, but hypnotic is also a whisker away from dull.

 

The mysterious logic of dreams is as impossible to predict as the direction in which Endre and Mária are (very) gradually heading. This is Enyedi’s first feature film since 1999’s Simon, the Magician, and she’s careful not to break its lyric spell, even when Mária slips perilously deep into despair. Like the deer who represent and complete them, Endre and Mária are skittish, expressing themselves most eloquently in silence. Beautiful and meaningful, but frankly, I wished they’d get a move on.