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  On Body and Soul I'll See You In My Dreams
Year: 2017
Director: Ildiko Enyedi
Stars: Alexandra Borbely, Geza Morcsanyi, Reka Tenki, Zoltan Schneider, Ervin Nagy, Itala Bekes, Tamas Jordan, Eva Bata, Pal Macsai, Zsuzsa Jaro, Nora Rainer-Micsinyei, Vivien Rujder, Istvan Danko, Laszlo Toth, Julia Nyako, Rozi Szekely, Zsofi Bodi
Genre: Romance, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A stag makes its way through a snowy forest, and this is the dream representative of Endre (Geza Morcsanyi) who sees this scene every night. But tonight there is someone else in his dream, a doe that he is unaware is the representative of Maria (Alexandra Borbely) who will soon be working in the same abattoir as Endre. However, there is a problem - neither of them have jobs slaughtering or cutting up the animals, but operate in administrative roles, and Maria has real trouble making friends, or any connection with anybody, so how will these two meet up in real life away from the land of Nod? Somehow Endre is drawn to her, and tries to make friends, but she is far too repressed to accept anything like companionship...

On paper, On Body and Soul, or Testrol es lelekro as it was called in its native Hungary, would be a basic May to September love story where an older man was attracted to a younger woman and to his welcome surprise she began to reciprocate, it really was as simple as that as far as the plot went. Yet writer and director Ildiko Enyedi opted not to go the simple route and dressed up her tale with a heavy dose of quirky mysticism, among other things, to throw it into sharper relief against its more conventional contemporaries, leading to a piece that you were either going to respond to as genuinely touching and weirdly sweet, or go the opposite way and start questioning why Maria would be interested in a man old enough to be her father.

Not that we see her actual father, though we do get a sense of a troubled childhood when she goes back to her the psychologist she attended as a child and for some reason still drops in on to try to get her head straight. There was an odd, semi-parody treatment of psychiatric issues, not exactly a laugh a minute kneeslapper of a comedy, but an impression Ildiko was not taking them as seriously as she might. Most of that was down to a subplot in the abattoir where someone had been stealing bull Viagra, presumably to use on themselves, and a shrink (Reka Tenki) was brought in to question the staff to work out whodunit; it is she who inadvertently discovers Endre and Maria are sharing their dreamspace. However, she believes they are pulling her leg when she asks about their dreams and garners the same response from both.

And she is kind of a figure of fun, suggesting, as do other elements, that the business of killing animals makes for a toxic work environment - be warned, vegans, that while we don't see the slaughter, we do see cows being chopped up - as the participants don't value life as much as they should, or would in another line of work. It is implied this lack of connection with compassion has led both dreamers into this occupation, which is why they will benefit one another should they act on the apparently unseen supernatural forces suggesting they get together. Certainly this brings about a change in the borderline autistic Maria as she begins to respond to the world by touch, and there's a nice feeling of a suppressed character opening up to the pleasures life can offer, the fact she dreams herself as perfectly in touch with the natural world also significant. But the act she commits in the latter stages is troubling, because it comes out of nowhere, and the strong suggestion that psychiatric problems can be remedied by a good shag is highly dubious. It's a difficult film to react to, well-made, but confused. Music by Adam Balazs.

[On Body and Soul is released on Blu-ray by MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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