Cows are the star of some minor yet memorable sequences in director Ildikó Enyedi’s weirdly hypnotic Testről és lélekről (On Body and Soul). The camera placidly moves across their languorous faces while an ominous mechanical shunting noise can be heard offscreen. The animals are then placed into a specialist holding crate and killed, before being dismembered while a bored-looking worker cleans up the rivers of blood. And all of this is seen onscreen, by the way, so a post-movie burger is unwise.
This occasional (and yet mundane) brutality nicely juxtaposes the rather sedate love story that unfolds at the Budapest slaughterhouse where the film takes place. Mária (Alexandra Borbély) is the new quality control inspector, and she’s shy to the point of being borderline comatose. The fact that she’s capable of conversation at all is a miracle, although she re-enacts key exchanges using her salt and pepper shakers to see what went wrong (as you do). She catches the eye of the slaughterhouse’s financial manager Endre (Géza Morcsányi) and before too long they find that they are having the exact same dream each night from slightly different perspectives… as you do. Incidentally, these dream sequences feature wildlife footage that would make David Attenborough applaud with glee.
The film suffers from some pacing issues, and it feels as though some minor subplots are tied off just a little too early, leaving the two protagonists to do their cutely inelegant dance towards love. It feels as though the story has run out of steam well before the ending, although a clever bait and switch about the conclusion for one of the characters is really quite elegant. Certain aspects of On Body and Soul might be a little too obtuse for some audiences to embrace, but once a prayer has been said for those unfortunate cows, the static weirdness of the film is most satisfactory.
Testről és lélekről (On Body and Soul) does not have a UK release date yet.
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