On Body and Soul

Two work colleagues' dreams intertwine in this darkly comic drama from Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi

Film Review by Adam Stafford | 11 Sep 2017
  • On Body and Soul
Film title: On Body and Soul
Director: Ildikó Enyedi
Starring: Alexandra Borbély, Géza Morcsányi, Zoltán Schneider, Ervin Nagy, Itala Békés
Release date: 22 Sep
Certificate: 18

Ildikó Enyedi’s magic-realist drama – winner of the Golden Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival – centres around the gentle and awkward relationship between two slaughterhouse employees who discover they share the same dream each night. Géza Morcsányi plays Endre, the reserved foreman of an abattoir who is increasingly intrigued by the arrival of Maria (Alexandra Borbély), a new quality-control manager. The young woman is so socially inept, blunt and forensically analytical about her job that one assumes that she rates high on the autism spectrum. Enyedi shows that the workplace can be just as cruel as the playground as colleagues openly mock Maria and boorish senior management make sexist remarks about her over lunch at the cafeteria.

After some bull aphrodisiac is stolen and the police are called in to investigate, a condescending psychologist is recruited to try and get to the bottom of the robbery, interviewing the employees about their dreams and childhood sexuality. It is at this slightly silly plot juncture that Endre and Maria realise that they dream the same tranquil snowy woodland scene each night. A quiet and inelegant relationship begins to develop between the pair with each encounter yielding calamitous scenarios as Endre struggles to understand Maria’s lack of societal norms and fear of intimacy.

The mood and pace is subdued throughout and the film is peppered with dryly hilarious moments (and two deeply visceral and gory sequences) that recall the humour of Aki Kaurismäki and Roy Andersson. Morcsányi is fantastic as the deadpan Endre and gives a direct, unsentimental – almost Bressonian – performance as a man who is world-weary and wants to distance himself from his womanising past. But ultimately it is Borbély’s film: the actor portrays her character with such vulnerable complexity and emotional intelligence that she is magnetic and mysterious in every scene.

Released by Mubi – for more info and details of where to see On Body and Soul, head to onbodyandsoulfilm.com