On Body and Soul(2017) Review

Cast : Geza Morcsanyi, Alexandra Borbely, Reka Tenki
Director : Ildiko Enyedi
Language : Hungarian
Genre : Drama, Romance
Synopsis : When slaughterhouse workers Endre and Maria discover they share the same dreams - where they meet in a forest as deer and fall in love - they decide to make their dreams come true but it's difficult in real life.

Following Your Dreams, Literally!

Ever had that embarrassing feeling when you encounter a person for real right after you've met them in your dreams the previous night? And God help you in such a situation if that dream just happened to be a romantic one! A voice inside your head warns you to be cool, lest your face betrays your secret. Worse still, you get that nagging, uncomfortable feeling at the back of your mind that they know you dreamt of them last night. 

Written and directed by Ildiko Enyedi, this idiosyncratic romantic drama takes it's own sweet time to start off on this bizarre note. However, once you begin to understand how its fractured protagonists are brought together by a mystic connection that manifests itself in the form of a dream, this remarkably eccentric love story gets better with each passing minute. 

Early on in the film, we're introduced to the two shy individuals through two separate shots of both of them staring at the sun, possibly a sign of just how much sunshine is going to be added to their colorless, monotonous lives. He is a fifty-something cripple, a man who is unhappy, but nevertheless one who has settled down to the fact that his best years are far behind. She is a socially awkward but sharp girl who remembers the exact dates for everything, can recount every single sentence in the correct order that has been spoken to her by anyone, and is probably autistic. Due to their individual shortcomings, both of them are regarded as societal lepers. So it's only a matter of time when we get to see the two misfits getting magnetically close to each other.

Even though it is never explicitly mentioned, you know exactly the kind of hardships the two face on an almost daily basis. There is a lot that is understated in their performances. Alexandra in particular churns in an incredibly fragile performance.

As to why the director chooses to place her two individual misfits in a slaughterhouse for a major part of the film, I am absolutely clueless. There are plenty of disturbing scenes showing cattles actually getting butchered, which left me wondering if this movie was going to be a sermon against harvesting of animals for meat, very much like last year's Korean masterpiece Okja. What's even more baffling is the presence of some unnecessary sub plots that ultimately lead to nowhere, including the theft of some pills that are used to increase the fertility of the doomed animals.

If only director Ildiko would have chosen to better streamline her story, then this might have been the kind of eccentric love story that would have given the likes of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind(2004) and The Before Trilogy a run for their money. Luckily, her keen eye for detail and observation of the human behavior keeps the viewer interested, right up till the soaring climax, that's powered even more by Laura Marling's melancholic composition What He Wrote.

There are films that are universally liked and there are films that are universally disliked. Then, there are films like On Body and Soul that end up having polarized opinions. Either the entire absurdity of the premise will leave you cursing the film, or like me, you will be enraptured in the moment by the beautiful imperfections of its principal characters, but don't expect this to be the kind of movie that'll stay with you long after the screen goes black.

I'm going with 3/5.


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