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On Body and Soul 2017

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About the On Body and Soul 💬

ON BODY AND SOUL tells a love story with elements of magical realism. Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi's first feature following an 18-year hiatus, the film is set in a Budapest slaughterhouse.

In this unconventional love story, two introverted people, both workers at a meat-processing plant, find out by chance that they share the same dream every night. At first, they are puzzled, incredulous and frightened, but as they begin to accept this strange coincidence, they try to recreate in broad daylight what happens in their shared subconscious.



In all my projects the story comes about last. 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 overwhelming, 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 Ágnes Nemes Nagy.

Here are 4 lines of it, they served as the motto for the script:

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.

As a rather reclusive person, I know how much can hide behind a placid, grey surface. How much pain, longing or passion - the heroism of everyday life. Walking down the street I watch people's faces and I know that even behind the most boring, dumb, clumsy one there can be a wonder. So somehow I wanted to share this feeling: nothing on the surface, but boy, so much inside!


The main idea for the storyline just came in one, single moment: what if one day you met someone who, at night, dreams the same dream you do? What would you do? Would you be thrilled? Would you be scared? Would you find it funny? Or rather intrusive? Or, perhaps, romantic? Situations which function like motors are the best for a film. Situations, which create questions you very much want to get an answer of, then which creates new questions again: If you get through the shock what would you do with this knowledge? Would you open your heart to this other person? But what if you are not the romantic type at all? If you shudder at the thought of esoteric crap? What if you have problems dealing with your own emotions? How would you face this stranger the next day after your shared, tender dreams of the night before? Would you attempt to create the same intimacy and affection you share in your dreams during the day? But what if that is not going well at all? What if you are unable to properly get through even a measly first date? And what if even the second date was a catastrophe? And the third was especially disgraceful? Would you give up? And if you gave up, could you stand it? Could you bear knowing that the person who is your soul mate at night remains a stranger to you during the day? Wouldn't you just die?

These questions lead us through until the last moment, because, even there, there is a question you wait for and get an answer for.


The slaughterhouse in the film is not some archaic, blood-soaked abattoir. It is a neat, well organized, modern workplace sticking assiduously to all regulations. It is the mirror of our Western society. After losing the comfort of the ritual frames of religion (well, most of us), we found ourselves clueless how to deal with the most important moments of our life: birth, love, death. The ritual, the knowing, that you participate in a holy moment helped once to live these moments fully. 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. I know, because I gave birth to three children in hospital, lost one due to a medical mistake deeply connected to this inhuman practicality and I was beside my father in the labyrinth of health care during the last three months of his life. All I experienced hurt me deeply. 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 Mária 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.


We filmed in a slaughterhouse for one week (and, naturally, we were there several times beforehand during preparation). The owner is a self-made man, he started as a butcher then progressed, he designed the building himself. He also takes care personally of the hiring of any worker. Our whole crew was touched by the natural, instinctive respect and tenderness in which these workers treated these animals. How they touched them, spoke with them. After arrival, the cattle spend one day in the slaughterhouse before dying.

The most heartbreaking was not the killing, the slicing, the process as a very complex being is transformed into an object in some minutes, but the living animals sitting peacefully, in silence, waiting to be killed. Their eyes. What I saw there, that unspoken fraternity, alliance between killed and killer, between these animals and the workers, had something to do with that knowledge tribal culture had: they hunted the animal, killed it then thanked it for the food. They thanked the animal for keeping them alive.


It was an especially brave gesture from the owner to receive us, risking attacks from many directions. Outside working hours we were totally free (they slaughter animals only three days a week, on the other days they process the meat) but even though there was a disinfection after us, we had to wear sanitary clothing and covering for our shoes.

But he also made clear that he would not let allow us to ''play around'' with the animals. For example, he would not let the cattle repeat the process of getting out of the cars and going down the ramp. I took this man into my heart. After, when he saw how we worked, a real, warm friendship built between him and our crew.

Before traveling there we sat down and spoke about the experience in front of us. Máté Herbai, my DOP and I were there already several times but for many of the crew members, this was the first time to see such a place. To complete the experience our lunch was served in a nearby restaurant also belonging to the owner. The stew served there was the meat of the animals slaughtered in his slaughterhouse - animals we met beforehand. I think it was an important life lesson for everybody - to finally know how that tasty food arrives to your plate. We should know how our steak arrives at our table, as we should know how our iPhone or new clothes are fabricated. And then, with this full knowledge, decide what to eat, what to buy, how to live our life.


I am deeply, personally involved in this film. I am Mária, or, rather, I was Mária once. After becoming a mother and having the chance to live a new, alternate, much less introverted childhood beside my kids and with them I became much more relaxed.

I am an only child. A thin, silent, effortlessly good student as a kid. I liked the school lessons and did not like recess. I was clumsy in social relations, awful in small-talk. But, as soon as we had a purpose, as soon as we had to make an effort together my communicative skills appeared from nowhere, I became a leader with natural ease, and was quite successful - without being bossy. For me, filmmaking is a beautiful, extremely intense occasion of social life. On a film set where people are all working together in strong interdependence, you can experience that they forget about wages, about household problems and are focusing dead seriously on something which has one function: to touch the soul of other, unknown people around the world. If I had to explain to a Martian how humanity is functioning, how we were able to achieve so much from poems to landing on the Moon, I would bring him/her to a film set. There humanity shows it's best, most generous and most effective face. All sharing a purpose: working hard for making alive somebody's imagination. Somebody's dream.


I think life itself is a mix of realism and dreams. Every day of your life you experience the constant mixture of both. Only you speak about one and not about the other. It is not by chance that the dream sequences are realistic in our film. It is a real wood with real, winter sounds, these animals are very much real, they are not the deer of fairytales. They do everyday things - what deer do normally. Drink from the creek, look for food, ruminate... The life of the waken hours is a bit abstract, shown with some slight stylization. The slaughterhouse, as well as the two apartments, are emblematic locations, the stages of the building of a mythical relationship.


It would be so good to be able to say that during these years I, let's say, climbed Mount Everest or found a new vaccine for malaria or whatever. The truth is that during the times I was not making films I was uniquely focused on filmmaking. There was not one single day when I was not working on, pushing forward, planning, dreaming about or already preparing a new film. I have written five scripts, all of them got very positive responses, so, as they were not refused there was no ground to abandon them.

Then, as time went on and on, slowly, it became clear that, somehow, for multiple reasons, none of them would be financed. It was a bitter, maddening period. Although I was teaching at the University of Film and Theatrical Art, loved and love teaching, and made smaller projects I learned how an unemployed worker could feel, how destroying it can be to feel not wanted when you are full of will and energy to work. Then, I was hired by a big company and I was happy. During the last five years, I worked for HBO Europe and the work with them was a real healing process. This was the first ''assigned'' work in my life, a remake to boot (of the series ''In Treatment''). So I was a bit afraid if I would have the necessary trust, freedom and means for meaningful work.

It was an immensely positive experience, very similar in intensity and depth to theatrical work. I am thankful to their executive team: they were wise and sure enough of their professional instinct to trust their own initial decisions to hire me and afterwards let me work in relative freedom and peace.

On Body and Soul Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Ildikó Enyedi

Writing Credits

Ildikó Enyedi


Alexandra Borbély

Géza Morcsányi

Réka Tenki

Ervin Nagy

Zoltán Schneider

Tamás Jordán

Itala Békés

Zsuzsa Járó

Júlia Nyakó

Éva Bata

Pál Mácsai

Music by

Ádám Balázs

Cinematography by

Máté Herbai

Categories: Oscars, Oscar Academy Award Nominee, EFA, European Film Award Winner

Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance

Country: Hungary

On Body and Soul Official Trailer

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