On Body and Soul (2017)

This is that time of the year I try to watch as many Oscar-nominated films (mainly foreign language movies because I've seen the best picture nominees already) and documentaries as possible. On Body and Soul (Hungarian: Teströl és lélekröl) caught my attention for a very simple reason: I was yet to see a Hungarian movie. As I always do, I went in knowing absolutely nothing and not only I was stunned by the direction the film takes, but how beautifully the film was made.

Endre (Géza Morcsányi) is an ageing manager of a slaughterhouse who hides his disabled left arm and emotions behind a busy schedule. Maria (Alexandra Borbély) is a young, glacial but gracious quality-control inspector. They barely know each other, they barely talk actually, then one day, as a drug is stolen and an investigation is started, they find out they share the same dreams and they decide to know each other more. 

Very bizarre and yet original, the story is incredibly interesting and draws you in immediately. It is an unusual love story that develops in an even more unusual setting, but it's the kind of love story you find yourself invested in, the kind of love story that keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting for a happy ending that may never come. 

That happens because director and writer Ildikó Enyedi takes all the time she needs to develop the story. The pace is slow --but the film never bores or feels dragged-- and allows her to take care of everything, even of the tiniest detail. Absolutely nothing is left to chance. The plot is never far-fetched and it has some twists beautifully incorporated. And it feels real. 

But that's not all. On Body and Soul also delivers great characters. The characterization is outstanding and so is the development. Endre is so sensitive, he doesn't even have the guts to go downstairs where the animals are slaughtered. He cares about the others and he doesn't want to hurt them --several times in the film he apologizes for things nobody would have apologized for.  Maria is shy but most of all cold, that's what allows her to go downstairs and do her job peacefully. She has a great memory and is able in reading faces, knowing whether someone is telling the truth or not, but does she really understand people? Endre is broken outside (the paralysed arm), Maria is broken inside (the inability to feel anything at all), hence the title.

Mozinet, Discovery film
The performances are great too. Géza Morcsányi is excellent as Endre, and yet Alexandra Borbély completely steals the show as she gives an outstanding and convincing portrayal of autism. The chemistry between Morcsányi and Borbély is beautiful and their acting is so natural, it never feels like watching a film. The supporting cast does a good job too.

At last but not least, there's the photography. Its cold colours, the close-ups of faces and nature, the simple, ordinary gestures the characters make (the brushing of hair, crumbs quickly swept away, the search for the warmth of the sun), they all add poetic to the film.

On Body and Soul is the kind of film that lets the camera and the subtle facial expressions of its leads do the talking. If you enjoy these films, you are going to love this one.


  1. Great review! I really liked this one too. As I've only seen two of the nominees, this is the one i hope wins.

    1. I haven't seen A Fantastic Woman and The Insult yet but this is my favourite and I too hope it wins.

  2. I think I have this in my watchlist as I hope it comes on TV real soon.