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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
At once strange and compelling, Enyedi Ildiko's unique and fascinating film draws us in with subtle wisps of character intrigue and harsh reality. The reality of an abattoir and its bloody business contrasts vividly with the wintry dreams of a pair of sleek deer fossicking for food. These dreams are shared by two strangers who work in the abattoir, the boss Endre and Maria, a contract worker executing quality control. His stubbled features and calm, almost comatose manner suggest a man withdrawn from life; Maria's straight blonde hair and expressionless demeanour likewise. His left arm is crippled; her whole soul likewise. If the universe has thrown them together, it is also responsible for their dreams and for how they deal with them.
Enyedi presents these elements with pragmatic reality, shunning all signs of mystery or mysticism: this is what happened, she is saying, and leads us through the consequences of their discovery about each other's dreams.
It is a well met challenge to make us care for these minimalist characters, but they are not so much unlikeable as unknowable and bit by bit we grow closer to them. They live in a world of casual cruelty - and I don't mean the abattoir, but the interactions of the workers - and they stand out in contrast.
Maria, repressed to the extent she can't stand being touched, finally tries to overcome her phobias (plural) and Enyedi engineers a riveting resolution - with a sweet coda.
(On Body and Soul won the 2017 Sydney Film Prize. Enyedi began her career as a concept and media artist. Her first feature My Twentieth Century (1989), screened at the 1990 Sydney Film Festival) won the Cannes Camera d'Or and was selected among the 10 Best Films of the Year by the New York Times.)