Thursday, April 12, 2018

On Body and Soul (Teströl és lélekröl): Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

On Body and Soul (Teströl és lélekröl), Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary, 2017
Closing Film (Sun Apr 9, 2017, 22:00)

I was a little wary of this one; the description mentions "a slaughterhouse in Budapest is the setting of a strangely beautiful love story", and—well, watching animals die, let alone in a systematized, 'commercially viable' way is low on my list of things I find entertaining. But the festival people were pretty convincing, and we ended up getting tickets.

Yes, the slaughterhouse isn't toned down or disguised, and a good portion of it plays a key part in the development of the story. And since the film is in Hungarian, it wasn't like I could look away during those gory scenes; I tried to read the subtitles as fast as possible, to train my eyes to focus only on the subs and ignore the images (it's more difficult than you might think; the eye wants to follow movement, make sense of the colors and shapes), but there were some spots, maybe one or two, when I did look away completely, and subs be damned.

But it was worth it.

It's a love story unlike any other. And, like any good love story does (or should), it shows us a side of ourselves, this human species, something new, unexpected, maybe even surprising, but which, as soon as we see it, we recognize as truth.

This is a film about boundaries, about individuality, about alternative experience of the world. Above all, it's about that genuinely 'adult' or 'mature' kind of love that seeks not the fantasy—the Prince Charming, the ride into the sunset, the happy ending—but the reality, the messy flesh-and-blood, body-and-soul uniqueness of being human. Most love stories hinge on an element of completion: when Boy meets Girl, he completes her—and she him. This is how they know it's Love. Love, then, is postulated as the Great Merger: effortlessly, naturally, two become one: they belong together, they fit each other like a glove. And it's all going to be all right now. Because Love Heals All.

The reality, as anyone who's been in an adult relationship knows, is... well, not quite so clean-cut. But isn't that what makes love so interesting? So devastatingly wonderful? And, also, what makes these make-believe portrayals of Perfect Love so dangerous?

This is the first 'love' story I come across where the issue of 'connection' doesn't preclude that of 'individuality', where Love really is about loving the otherness in this new person in your life. The connection between the two protagonists here is strong, as strong as any of the giant lovers of literature. But they are not Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, or Mr. & Mrs. Gray (ye gods, spare me). These two people are flawed and quirky and far, far from perfect—and oh so very human. And the story of how they come together—especially that last scene, just before the fade-out to the credits—is steeped in intoxicating realness, in insight... and in beauty.

The 2018 festival started yesterday, with an amazing Danish film called The Guilty (review will be forthcoming, yes). The intention was to publish this post yesterday; the 2017 closing film on the day of the 2018 opening film. But, alas, didn't work out that way. I've been putting in overtime on the blog tour for the upcoming book release. A lot of work, but also a lot of fun. (More on that later.)

So this is it. The final post of the Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival. I hope I get 2018 done sooner... Although it was good, in a way, to have to sit and remember these films, remember how I felt watching them, the thoughts and insights they sparked. But I do feel that I lost a lot. I forgot a lot. So this year I'm jotting down my impressions as soon as the movie is over. And I promise—yes, seriously—I will upload and post these new reviews, at the rate of about one per week, starting mid-May (or sooner).

I thought you might be curious about the Curaçao film festival, so I've provided some links here:

  • The CIFFR home page
  • The 2018 film list (alphabetically) — Note that on this link, at the top of the page, there are also links to the film lists of previous years.
  • If you're interested in the booklet, you can find a link to download a PDF of each year's at the top of the CIFFR page, under 'Festival'.

Thank you so much for all your visits and comments. The best part of this review project has been the chance to exchange thoughts on the films with you.


  1. This one sounds intriguing.
    Despite the slaughterhouse.
    Now I'm conflicted.

    1. That's exactly how I felt! If you don't mind missing a couple bits of dialogue (nothing major), the slaughterhouse scenes are easily avoided, though. This isn't one of those where they spring them on you without warning, so you have plenty of time to look away. If, that is, you do come across it somewhere :)

      Thanks for the visit, Andrew!

  2. Hi Guilie - love that you've posted links for us to refer back to - re the films being shown etc ... I doubt I'll get to see this ... but hope I see it somewhere ... interesting - and am so glad you went - cheers Hilary

  3. This made me want to watch the movie, and like you, I'll probably flinch and look away a whole lot of the time.

  4. I hate to be the ostrich, but when it comes to slaughterhouses, I duck my head in the sand. You've made this sound very interesting though.

  5. This film is On Netflix Canada at the moment November 2019. I have been in many slaughterhouses in my career (Veterinarian). The salughrehouse depicted was beautiful by slaughterhouse standards. The EU has the highest standards for humane slaughter in the world. The "knocking box" depicted was superior in manufacture to anything I have seen in Canada with superior head restraint. The cattle were completely silent which is one of the Temple Grandin standards for absence of fear and distress. The only distracting technical error was there are never any drugs used in animal management at slaughter and I have never experianced a kill floor where the noise of chains and compressed air driven hand tools was not deafining. There is a great scene where the protagonist is touching a cattle beast through the bars of the pen. 5 star movie

  6. I just saw this movie and was totally in awe. You are the first person to bring Temple Grandin into the conversation. My husband and I thought it was really interesting that the setting was the slaughterhouse and the female lead role was socially awkward to the point of being on the autistic spectrum. I would like to know if this was a coincidence or if the writer was influenced by Temple Grandin's story.


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