On Body and Soul

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
On Body and Soul Movie Poster Image
Unforgettable romantic drama has graphic sex and violence.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 116 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Film explores the idea of love finding a way to reach two people even in dreams and even as they have a difficult time connecting in waking life. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

While characters are fully fleshed-out and detailed, no positive role models emerge. 

Violence

Graphic depiction of a woman's attempted suicide by slicing her wrist in the bathtub with a piece of broken glass, extremely bloody. Characters work in a slaughterhouse -- a close-up scene of a cow in a factory farm getting killed, followed by its bones being broken off, its head decapitated, and its body being drained of blood while stuck on meat hooks. 

Sex

Lead female character watches pornographic movie -- sounds of sex heard throughout the scene, along with a few seconds of a penis penetrating a vagina. Two characters have sex in bed -- no nudity, but movements shown and sounds heard. Brief nonsexual nudity: female breasts, buttocks. A male character tells another male character, in reference to a new female employee, "I'd bang her." During a psychiatric evaluation, the evaluator asks the male lead what age he was when he first ejaculated; at the beginning of the scene, he's caught staring at the evaluator's breasts. 

Language

Occasional profanity: "f--k," "t-ts," "ass," "damn," "hell." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. A character invites another character out for a beer. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that On Body and Soul is a 2017 Hungarian drama in which two introverted characters find each other by experiencing the same dream. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film for 2018. The movie is in Hungarian with English subtitles. Those who are squeamish at the sight of blood or sensitive to the graphic portrayal of suicide should know that one of the lead characters attempts suicide by cutting her wrist with a jagged piece of glass; the attempt is graphically shown, with spurting and gushing blood. This movie is also set primarily in a slaughterhouse. In an extended scene, a cow gets killed. After it dies, its bones and joints are shown getting broken and pulled off by a machine, its head decapitated, and its body hanging on meat hooks and drained of blood. The lead female character, who exhibits behavior on the autistic spectrum, tries to figure out the details of sexual intercourse by observing a pornographic movie; moans of pleasure are heard throughout the scene, and the pornographic movie itself is briefly shown, with a close-up of a penis penetrating a vagina. In another scene, two characters have sex -- no nudity, but the sounds and body positions (and the scene immediately after) leave no doubt as to what's happening. During a psychiatric evaluation, the male lead character is caught staring at the breasts of the evaluator; during the survey, she asks him how old he was when he first ejaculated. The movie also features brief, nonsexual female nudity (breasts, buttocks), as well as cigarette smoking. 

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What's the story?

When Maria arrives as the new government quality inspector in an urban slaughterhouse, the other workers find her cold, distant, and rigidly by-the-book. The director of the slaughterhouse, Endre, a gaunt older man with a withered right arm, tries to break the ice with her in the employee cafeteria but is rebuffed. Subsequent attempts to connect also end in failure, and these two introverts remain aloof from one another. This begins to change when it's discovered that one of the employees stole the slaughterhouse's supply of animal mating powder. The police are called in, and then a psychiatric evaluation is taken of each employee. When the evaluator asks the employees about the dreams they had the night before, she discovers that Endre and Maria are having the exact same dream of a stag and doe existing together in the same beautiful winter landscape. As the evaluator accuses them of pulling a prank on her, Endre and Maria admit to each other that they've been having this same recurring dream for quite some time. As their waking world remains drab and their roles in it distant from it and each other, they begin to talk to prepare for sleep and the dream they will share. But their relationship during waking life is further complicated by Maria's life on the autism spectrum -- a life in which she has heightened senses and perfect memory for conversations but has difficulty in understanding the emotions behind music and what sexual intercourse means in a romantic relationship, as well as Endre's long-held wariness of romantic relationships that go beyond one-night stands. And yet, these two unlikely lovers, so long disconnected from their worlds, must admit to their feelings and find a way to fall in love. 

Is it any good?

The viewer's patience is rewarded tenfold in the Hungarian film On Body and Soul. The slow pacing, lack of the usual Hollywood bag of tricks employed to keep everyone entertained, and minor conflicts that only hint at the overall theme of the movie require some adjustment. But with the space and time allotted to give the actors room to fully develop the lead characters as they struggle to connect with their worlds and each other, what emerges is a romance unlike any previously told. Through their shared recurring dream and their awkward interactions in waking life, Endre and Maria reveal the universal dichotomy of the human yearning for love, and obstacles that prevent it from happening. 

It's an unforgettable movie on many levels, but it's worth mentioning that, unlike most romantic movies, it isn't until the very last moments of On Body and Soul that you know how it will end. The patience of scenes that seemed slow and filled with the workaday banality (the movie is mostly set in a slaughterhouse) of office gossip and petty rivalries is rewarded by this ending. The strange path to get there is revealed for the brilliance that it was. And that message is one worth experiencing. 

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difference between this movie, made in Hungary, and movies made in Hollywood. What do you notice in terms of character development, pacing, and content? How do you think this movie would be different had it been made in Hollywood? 

  • Do you think the graphic depictions of an attempted suicide and a cow getting killed in a slaughterhouse were necessary to the overall story? Why do you think these depictions were shown? 

  • Music was seldom used in the movie. How did the silence intensify the drama in the scenes? 

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