The best offbeat romcom of the year?

Writer-director Ildikó Enyedi mines female aloofness for both comedy and sadness in On Body and Soul

Géza Morcsányi and Alexandra Borbély in On Body and Soul

Film Title: On Body and Soul

Director: Ildikó Enyedi

Starring: Alexandra Borbély, Géza Morcsányi, Réka Tenki, Zoltán Schneider, Ervin Nagy, Itala Békés

Genre: Romance

Running Time: 116 min

Thu, Sep 21, 2017, 12:35

   

This marvellous offbeat romance, a deserving winner of this year’s Golden Bear and potentially perfect double-bill pairing with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, opens with a gorgeous Christmas-card tableau in which a stag and a doe wander through a snowy forest.

These romantic animals have little or nothing in common with the unfortunate cattle that are processed through the slaughterhouse where soulful Endre (Géza Morcsányi) is the financial director. Or do they?

One day, while staring out at the courtyard where fellow employees smoke and chat, Endre is instantly drawn to Maria (Alexandra Borbély), the new abattoir doctor. She is much younger than he, but that is the least of the many impediments that will come between them.

Maria, we soon surmise, is on the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum. She has issues with tone and needs to practise conversations at home using the salt and pepper set or sometimes Playmobil figures. She has to remind herself to maintain eye contact. She hates to be touched. And she keeps on grading the meat too harshly.

 Still, when the police arrive at the slaughterhouse to investigate a theft, a hilariously foxy investigating psychiatrist makes the strangest discovery, one that seems to mark Endre and Maria out as soulmates.

Stay tuned for Laura Marling, pornography, and new uses for mashed potato, as writer-director Ildikó Enyedi (the award-winning film-maker behind Simon the Magician and My Twentieth Century) mines peculiarly female aloofness for both comedy and sadness. Máté Herbai’s airy and sunny cinematography enlivens darker narrative nooks. Borbély makes for an unconventional but entirely convincing romantic hero. But it’s Géza Morcsányi’s inventive wide-eyed turn that steals the show.

An equally innovative screenplay snakes between criminal investigation, light magic realism, rom-com, graphic depictions of bovine death and the lives of wilder, happier ruminants.

And they say workplace romances are a bad idea.