Directed by Ildikó Enyedi
Starring Géza Morcsányi, Alexandra Borbély
For all the promise and intrigue this peculiarly quirky romance film sets up, it never manages to follow through with any of its more interesting ideas, always eschewing them for the more frustrating and tiresome directions.
Shy, fawn-like Mária (Alexandra Borbély) becomes a new employee at an abattoir where she meets fellow co-worker, the much older Endre (Géza Morcsányi). As it turns out, the two are sharing the same dream, and once they find out, they can’t help but let a relationship naturally unfurl.
These dream sequences, involving two deer in a serene snowy forest, are handsomely filmed, though they’re missing any enigmatic or mysterious quality that dreams usually possess. Instead of these sequences offering any curiosity for the film, they instead feel very plain, and thankfully these barely evolving dream sequences stop reoccurring (though not early enough).
In the real world, the way in which these two co-workers reveal to each other what their dreams are, and learn that they share the same dream, feels so utterly contrived, you can see the story break a sweat trying to force these plot-points together. Not to give it all away, but it involves a burglary at the abattoir, and this B-story continues on for some time and resolves itself with very little bearing on the central love story.
And if you’re a fan of pointless scenes and plotlines, On Body and Soul has got plenty more where that came from. Most egregious is a lengthy and gruesome scene early on of the slaughtering of cows at the abattoir, complete with their skinning and disembowelment – it doesn’t exactly set the mood for this quirky romance tale.
There’s also a half-baked moment later on in the film involving Mária’s psychiatrist (the perfect way to layer on some character development when the film has already forgotten to), which leads to her exploring her more immediate sensual side. Like many other scenes, this is an intriguing, yet unresolved moment that just feels too tenuous to connect to the love story at hand. It either needed to become a deleted scene, or for deleted scenes to be reinstated to give this odd story tangent some clarity and context.
Along with all this unnecessary plot filler that goes nowhere, the unfocused centre of On Body and Soul is terribly uninteresting as well. Two people who are merely compelled to be together, with no clear reason as to why. Their “romance” is full of nonsensical back-and-forths (“I love you. No, actually, I don’t love you. No, wait, I do”) that seem to come out of nowhere and are squeezed in to add some unneeded tension, though instead makes the characters seem unbearably erratic. By the end of the film, you wish these love-birds would meet a similar fate to the poor cows at their work-place.