On Body and Soul (Ildiko Enyedi, 2017): Hungary

Reviewed by Savasia J. Vida at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, 2018.

Love can be found in the places you would never think of. Slaughterhouse workers, Endre and Maria, become acquainted romantically when they found out that they’ve been sharing the same dream of two deer roaming around in a frosted forest. The deer within the dreams act as if they’re in love, following each other around the forest to find food and share a drink in the cold rivers. Both Endre and Maria make a pact to tell each other about their dreams the day after as they share phone calls before they sleep and even attempt to sleep with each other to really envision the beauty of their dreams.

Maria comes to the slaughterhouse as a new quality inspector, but everyone gets a sense that she is a bit weird. Within her house, we are introduced to her OCD-like tactics, as she rehearses the conversations she had with Endre to practice her responses. Maria is also like a child — she sees a child therapist in her adult years to give her advice on how to handle daily situations with other people. On the other hand, Endre is one of the managers of the slaughterhouse who engages with Maria first. Despite the rumors, Endre attempts to befriend Maria to ease her transition within her new job. When they realize that they’ve been having similar dreams, they each drop their hard exteriors to learn more about each other and their potential relationship.

The interesting aspect to take away from On Body and Soul is the strategic editing use of the A-story and the B-story. The A-story is considered as the daily work life in the slaughterhouse through the perspectives of both Endre and Maria. However, the B-story is actually the scenes of the deer roaming around in the forest. The editing of this film plays on ambiguous notions of what is part of the story; for example, the scenes of the deer are introduced in the first scenes and sprinkled in before we realize that they are the dreams of both Endre and Maria. This technique retains the interest of the story, as the audience becomes increasingly curious about the purpose of the deer scenes.

On Body and Soul is an interesting representation of love by two completely opposite characters who use their dreams for a spiritual rather physical connection.

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