Silhouette members discussed and debated Ildikó Enyedi’s On Body and Soul following a private screening. The film that won the coveted Golden Bear at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival has its own calming charm and moments to take home. It also refers to interesting symbols of Christian philosophy – the relation between man and animal and also the psyche of the differently enabled individuals. Silhouette recommends the film.
Amitava Nag, Anwesha Deb, Partha Sarathi Raha, Sambaran Sarkar, Subhadeep Ghosh
Silhouette members as a group agreed that the melancholic mood of the film has been excellently captured and consistently delivered. It resulted in a rare calm film-viewing experience even if there were a lot of blood and cruelty prevalent on the surface. The duality between the ‘body’ and the ‘soul’ has been captured with poignant intensity. The man with a disability in his arm and the woman with a differently enabled mind could meet only in a shared dream. They complement each other with deep sensibilities and both try to overcome the ‘shortcoming’ to form a collective whole.
The ‘duality’ is masterly constructed through gripping imageries and seamless but repetitive transition between different spaces – of dream and reality, of the canteen where connection of souls take place immediately preceded or followed by the shots of the slaughter room where bodies disintegrate.
What struck equally was the connotation of the cows in the slaughterhouse, the deer in the dreams.
Partha found the image of the cow slaughter with wide, black eyes quite haunting. For Subhadeep it was the duality of ‘body without soul’ vs ‘soul without body’ and how both are finely balanced without being melodramatic.
For Anwesha the seamless mingling of dreams and reality was a journey in itself. She observed the duality of ‘body’ and ‘soul’ is portrayed through Endre being physically challenged with a dysfunctional hand yet sharp mental faculties and Maria possessing physical beauty yet exhibiting autistic behaviour. The film takes Anwesha on a journey with apparently dissimilar characters who are drawn together first by their common dreams and finally they seem to complement each other in a harmonious relationship.
Subhadeep observed that although the dream sequences lack the usual absurdity but they are fully convincing and never appear to be artificially imposed. Partha further commented on the latent brutality engraved in the apparent calmness of the film’s tenor that created the conflict as intrinsic as the one on which the film’s concept delves and delivers.
For Amitava the entire Christian reference of ‘body’ and ‘soul’ as depicted in the film is illuminating. The positioning of ‘man’ as the bearer of ‘soul’ within the ‘body’ as compared to inferior animals (cows in this case) is captivatingly portrayed in the eerie silence of the slaughter-house.
Partha further commented that it is striking how another character’s dream also revolved round an animal that united the people to the central theme of vulnerability and connection. In the process there is a hinting for potential stories beyond the real frames. For Amitava, deer in the dream sequences also hold spiritual connotations – the deer were on their own, free as opposed the cows who were controlled, regulated and made to wait to be slaughtered, the deer represent the ‘soul’ for Amitava.
Anwesha thought that the scene of Endre with his daughter didn’t lead to anything, an irrelevant extra. For Subhadeep the film’s ending was predictable as it forges to a communion. For him the suicidal attempt of Maria was probably a bit staged just to bring a dramatic element to foster the film to its end. Amitava disagreed, for him the profiling of Endre didn’t allow him to suddenly withdraw from Maria – that was silently done and the dramatic element was delivered with the suicidal attempt later on. But given the way Endre was compassionate about the HR Manager or his apologizing to the new Casanova of the factory for being rude his abrupt realization seemed a bit contrived.
For Partha the way two psychologist characters were portrayed and the director’s wish to show their vulnerability as well didn’t work out fine whereas for Sambaran that added new dimensions only. He however felt that the monologues of Maria with the salt and pepper shakers seemed melodramatic.
For Partha the twilight shot of Endre and Maria waiting for a train in a lonely platform is very cinematic.
Amitava found two scenes very memorable – the one where the antler deer was running (they were never running before this, as if to run away from a ‘reality’) alone depicting the change in their shared dream psychosis.
The second one is a very sensitive, soft portrayal where Maria just moves a step back as if to hide herself from the rays of Sun. Quite unknowingly she was being looked at by Endre from his office.
For Anwesha the dream sequence just after Endre and Maria discovered that their dreams were same – the deer coming out of a green forest into a white, snow-covered field was contrasting and signifying that something beautiful and lively (the green trees for the first time in their dream) would be happening in their lives. For Sambaran the shot where the female deer looks at the vacant place in front of her where the male deer was supposed to be present seemed memorable.
Subhadeep remembered a completely different context, the apparently comical restaurant scene which was ironical of the modern urban reality and almost farcical.
The film is unique in the sense it doesn’t evoke distinct references with any other film or text. Sambaran recollected however the differences with Kim Ki Duk’s Dreams. Subhadeep got reminded of the Indian film Lunchbox by Ritesh Batra for the similarity of communication between two characters. However Lunchbox had a very Indian setting unlike this film.
Amitava recollected Siddhartha Siva’s Indian film Ain in Malayalam which also dealt with a rural slaughter house. The innocent helplessness of the animals was portrayed in Ain as well, some similar cinematic moments.
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