Viewer’s Discretion: “On Body and Soul” and “Who Are You People?”


‘ON BODY AND SOUL’ (NETFLIX)

Despite our scientific understanding of attraction, the specifics of why we fall in love with the people we do still command a mystical place in our experience. Some of us believe in soul mates, while others subscribe to more practical reasoning, like having the same interests. This Hungarian drama explores the mystical side through dreams — specifically your night-time world as a separate reality that offers signposts to guide to daytime experience.

Two people working in a Budapest abattoir find they share the same dreams. The man, Endre (Géza Morcsányi), has a recurring scenario that he is a deer in the wild in partnership with a doe, foraging for food and water. The woman, Maria (Alexandra Borbély) has the same dream, except she is a doe alongside a buck.

The symbolism of this gentle freedom in dreams is not hard to read, especially considering their jobs in a slaughterhouse. This is where sensitive viewers might beware — there are beautifully shot, but graphic scenes of slaughter. In the context of the film, it’s hard to see how the workers in this environment aren’t subject to their own emotional vivisection. Endre, tired and guarded, and Maria, reserved, socially awkward, emotionally mysterious, are transported to a place of bonding and escape.

The juxtaposition of human and cattle is at the center of the film, taking a gruesome turn that alternately becomes humorous, and maybe that is the difference between humans and livestock. A cow is marched to its execution and dismemberment without being able to examine the situation. A human, though, has perspective and imagination, and desire that can make a difference. We don’t have to be cattle; we just often choose to be.


‘WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?’ (AMAZON)

Film-making documentaries are can too often become endless streams of self-congratulations where the magic of the illusory technological art or the eccentric excesses of the film director become points of celebration which enslave the narrative.”Who Are You People?” takes a different approach by reversing its point of entry.

In covering the filming of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Steven Speilberg becomes a minor character, and the extras in the film are shuffled to the center of our attention. Focusing on the citizens of Mobile, Ala., who took part in the filming, this folksy documentary reveals a truth we always know, but never really see played out in front of us. Movies are very often the result of hundreds, even thousands, of individuals with their own small stories and experiences, bringing their own world views to the set. “Who Are You People?” takes the time to examine this in real-world terms.

I don’t know if this is an aesthetic choice or if the rights to film clips were just too expensive, but “Who Are You People?” functions more like an oral history of the filming than a traditional making-of documentary. Much of the film is spent with the citizen looking at the camera and reminiscing, with no clips to illustrate the person’s role, only occasional snapshots taken on the set by locals.

At first, I was worried this would be to the film’s detriment, but as it progressed, I came to think of it as a significant strength, as it allows the film to sustain the point of view. It never shifts. We always see the making of this movie through these people’s eyes, and that is crucial to the story they’re telling.

Mobile was in a rough place when Spielberg showed up to film, and the production was so all-encompassing it was as if an army had invaded. That’s the kind of culture change that happened, and the stories these people tell, and the way they relate them, capture that reality. It becomes a charming documentary that not only gets down to the nitty-gritty of how films are made, but primarily examines our relationship with them and what happens when we are invited in by the man behind the curtain.


Originally published at www.berkshireeagle.com.

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