THE audience at last year’s Sydney Film Festival voted Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi’s “On Body And Soul” as Best Film. And for protection of the sensitivities and moral compass of Australian cinema audiences, the Classification Board slapped an R classification on it.
I’m blessed if I know why. Perhaps it was because “On Body and Soul” pulls no punches about what goes on in an abattoir. Way back when, the junior year at Rockhampton High School was considered mature enough to visit the Central Queensland Meat Export Company factory, then Australia’s biggest. I don’t recall any of us taking harm from what we saw.
Enyedi’s film is a love story that defies the conventions of the genre. Géza Morcsányi plays Endre, financial director at a small Budapest abattoir. Alexandra Borbély plays Maria, employed to classify carcase quality. Both characters are withdrawn, solitary. And each night, as they sleep in separate buildings, they have the same dream, involving a stag and a doe.
Each of them carries the residue of issues that continue to weigh heavily on their equanimity. A minor theft in the company office leads the police to require every employee to undergo a psychological evaluation. Two people linked by an unplanned association have to confront its effect on their bodies and their souls.
There’s nothing in any of that to explain the R classification. Yes, “On Body And Soul” has discomforting moments – butchering procedures immediately following the slaughter of a bullock; the precursor to an ancient Roman-style suicide; a flash of sodomy lasting perhaps three seconds.
Those few passages make their statements and move on in a beautiful, leisurely-paced film that finds its tensions in its central enigma. The winter exteriors and wildlife shots are a delight. And the story’s people are real.
At Palace Electric