On Body and Soul (2018)
It’s rare to find a film both tender and subtle while adding style and quirk in its narrative. Eternal Sunshine, Her, and now On Body and Soul: the long awaited new film from Ildikó Enyedi, one of Hungary’s greatest filmmakers. When Mária starts at a slaughterhouse, her asocial ways keep her on the outskirts of the social crew. Endre enters the scene as a casual acquaintance, keeping to the side until an investigation unveils a shared dream the two possess nightly. A curmudgeon himself, Endre finds it difficult to connect with Mária outside of their slumber, but the development of a relationship from a slumbering distance creates a unique experience for a viewing audience experiences an age of romantic distance.
Ildikó Enyedi’s vision eaks out a careful tale. Mária is concerned with proximity and development; Endre is perplexed by boundaries while maintaining position. A cerebral connection opens the pair to a non-physical connection, exchanging fumbling through awkward first kisses for the confusion inherent in a deer-formulated romp through the forest. Enyedi features gentle control in her world, from closeups of pawing hooves to brightly lit focus on ingenue Alexandra Borbély’s loveliness. Aided by Máté Herbai’s shining vision of Mária surrounded by the drab slaughterhouse’s air of death, the film is part romantic, part tragic as the socially inept pair try to find connection in their unconnected world.
Borbély delivers a hushed portrayal of a possibly, though never fully discussed, autistic woman approaching this novel encounter. She hides most of herself, but what is there that she’s not portraying. I believe it is fear that is absent, in all but a first touch. She is primarily silent, though her limited words and movements portray loneliness she’s never been able to articulate. Her experiences find her in peculiar situation, introducing her to physical situations and emotional exchanges she’s ill-equipped to face. Her exchanges with her childhood psychologist demonstrate precisely where her development betrayed her independence. For someone who can remember and recount every interaction she’s faced, she is constantly relearning the world around her. Her trip is quite tenuous; never fully adjusting to the gruff Endre’s halted advances. For as centered as the relationship is on the pair’s connection, Mária’s journey is the highlight in the film; so much with so little. This Oscar nominated tribute to the unknowability of how and why we love is brilliant and brittle and all so human. Find it now on Netflix.