Monday, February 26, 2018
OSCARS 2018: On Body and Soul (2017)
On Body and Soul” is the third film I've reviewed this month to prominently feature a character on the autism spectrum. Considering how awareness of these conditions have risen in recent years, I guess this isn't surprising. Whatever the reason why, it's fair to say that “On Body and Soul” tackles this concept in a way not quite like any other film.
This Hungarian film follows Endre and Maria. Both work in a slaughterhouse. Endre, an older man with a disabled right arm, works on the office and the floor. Maria, a younger woman with some form of autism, works as a quality inspector. After some steroids are stolen from the slaughterhouse, a psychologist interviews all the employees. She discovers that Maria and Endre are having the same dreams: Of being deer, running through the snow and eating leaves together. Maria and Endre realize the two have a connection. They attempt to form a relationship but it proves more difficult than expected.
What I liked the most about “On Body and Soul” is Maria. She is a young woman that has a very direct way of dealing with things. She goes about her job with an acute, accurate, unfailingly focused sense of determination. When she realizes something is evolving between herself and Endre, she goes about falling in love in the same fashion. She goes to a record store and listens to a huge pile of CDs – across all genres, until the store closes – in order to find romantic music. She systematically watches pornography, chewing gummy bears as she goes. She goes against her autistic inclinations and practices touching and cuddling. A lesser actress would've reduced Maria to a list of quirks. (She play-acts person-to-person interactions with Playmobil figurines, as one example of quirky behavior.) Alexandra Borbely, however, brings an incredible sense of empathy to the part. She makes Maria fully-formed human being.
“On Body and Soul” doesn't nail every aspect. Maria makes a sudden decision near the story's climax that I wasn't entirely sold on. Some of the side characters in the film are unnecessary distractions to the film's point. For the most part though, “On Body and Soul” is a charming and beautifully composed motion picture. It's a quirky love story that doesn't lean too hard into the twee-ness. It's funny without being thoughtful, a surprisingly touching movie about love blooming in the most unlikely of places, told in a deeply lyrical fashion. [9/10]