On Body and Soul, a love story that won at Berlinale on theaters tomorrow in Hungary

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“The heart, a sputtering flame to light,
the heart, in mighty clouds of snow,
and yet inside, while flakes sear in their flight,
like endless flames of a burning city glow”.


Those four lines from one of the poems of Hungarian poet Ánges Nemes Nagy (January 3, 1922 – August 23, 1991) were the beginning of screenplay for “On Body and Soul” (A Teströl és Lélekröl), winner of the Golden Bear, the Ecumenical Prize and FIPRESCI jury prize at Berlinale 2017.

Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi, has told her stories begins always for simple concepts that she wants to represent with moving images and the screenplay is the last part of that process. It was this poem extract the starting point for her and concept was her desire to express her points of views about human condition and how we live now specially. “This one, as all the others, started with a strong wish to share my view about the human condition, about how we live our life. Also, it started with a strong personal wish to show an overhelming, passionate love story in the least passionate and overwhelming way. I read a lot of poetry, this is my refuge, and the real starting point was a poem by a Hungarian poet Agnes Nemes Nagy“.

On Body and Soul follows two characters, Endre and Maria. He is the director of an industrial slaughterhouse. She is the new quality inspector who has been sent by the authorities. Endre thinks she is beautiful but at the same time too much severe and stringent with her job. During routine company interviews, the psychologist discovers both characters, without knowing, are having the same recurring dream. This situation is uncomfortable and weird but, little by little, they are accepting that, during nights, they meet in a common realm, but to the light of the day things are more complicated and recreate the harmony of those dreams won’t be so easy.

This love and fantasy feature film conquered the jury at Berlinale, who at the moment of giving this recognition, said through director Paul Verhoeven, president of the Jury on this edition: “This film is approachable only with a generous heart”.

Production explains that industrial slaughterhouse has a purpose for the story. This place has all safety standards as a reflection of today’s western society. They are talking about the part of our society who is now stripped of concepts and religious rituals, but they feel confused to the time to face key moments of their lives like a birth, love and death. “Losing this solid frame, society tried to deal with these moments with practicality. This transforms you into an object, it transforms your beloved ones into an object”. And Enyedi director added: “I know, because I gave birth to three children in hospital, lost one due to a medical mistake deeply connected to this inhuman practicality”.

Both characters are limited for loving because they are two wounded people. Ildikó continues: “Seeing the animals arriving to the slaughterhouse in trucks made me think not only of their death, but of the life they lived before. That narrow, restricted life completely deprived of the fulfillment of the call of their instincts. My two heroes, Endre and Maria are not only introverted people. They are wounded. Their handicap is the sign of their inner, mental health. They react to an environment (here I don’t mean the slaughterhouse but the whole of society) which is not cut for them – or anybody”.

Producers also said they fell in love of this screenplay that was changed during many years and they relate as a “masterpiece”: “As producers, we fell in love with the beautifully written script. And the film became a real masterpiece. It is a love story which is a bit about all of us. It was a long journey to end up here. The first version of the script was written long time ago and Ildiko has polished it for a while. She imagined a special world, reality and dream. To create the atmosphere and the visual scenery of the film she has chosen her colleges watchfully. The cinematographer and the art director gave a great visual impact onto the film. Ildiko has chosen a professional actress for Maria and a non-professional actor for Endre. It was one of our biggest challenges as producers, to understand how the professional and non-professional actor would be able to work together especially concerning the love scenes.. Ildikó made a miracle with the two characters and polished them to one another… this couple was able to draw such a beautiful love story on screen…”

This is the second time a Hungarian film won the Gold Bear at Berlinale and the second one also for a woman director. This first moment was in 1975 with the production “Adoption” by Márta Mészáros.

On Body and Soul will be on Hungarian theaters starting from 2nd March.

Press material credit: Films Boutique.

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