Kennedy who needed an alibi
the Kennedy clan, Joseph (Bruce Dern), who can only growl one word: “Alibi!” Teddy’s demeanour when he eventually comes face-toface with his formidable father is that of a small child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
It’s a classic case of a guilty man who, in trying to avoid blame for what he’s done, only gets deeper and deeper into trouble. His decision to wear a neck brace at Mary Jo’s funeral was just one of his very bad decisions.
Chappaquiddick is the best film to date directed by John Curran, an American-born director who has lived much of his life in Australia and has directed two films here, Praise (1998), in which Clarke had a small role, and Tracks (2013). Energised by the excellent screenplay, Curran delves into the characters of these politically ambitious but awesomely flawed characters to tease out a tragedy that started with a simple drunken mistake but led eventually to repercussions that would affect the entire world. It’s quite a story. The Hungarian director Ildiko Enyedi is surely one of the most interesting and inventive of contemporary filmmakers, though sadly she’s far from prolific. I’ve never forgotten seeing her first feature, My Twentieth Century (1989), at a screening in Budapest — it’s a wonderfully whimsical tale of twin sisters who share very different fates, one as a revolutionary, the other as a sex siren. Enyedi followed this striking debut with a couple of almost equally interesting films but it’s been nearly 20 years since she made a feature — and her comeback, On Body and Soul, one of the most curious yet appealing romances you’re likely to see, won the first prize at both the Berlin and Sydney film festivals last year.
It’s curious insofar as the main setting is an abattoir where the principal character, Endre (Geza Morcsanyi), a middle-aged man with one crippled arm, works as head of the financial department. He’s unmarried and a solitary character who spends his evenings alone, either in a restaurant or in his apartment, and whose only friend appears to be Jeno (Zoltan Schneider), the human resources manager, who in contrast to his friend clearly enjoys a comfortable, well-fed, married life.
The abattoir appoints a new director of quality control, Maria (Alexandra Borbely), an unusually shy young woman who can’t bear to be touched and who is borderline autistic. She proves rather too efficient when she gives the beef a grade 2 rating instead of the grade 1 her employers had expected.
Into this hermetic setting comes unexpected drama; some bovine aphrodisiac used in the mating of cattle is found to have been stolen from the laboratory, triggering a police investigation. A psychiatrist is brought in to test the mental state of each employee, and one of the questions asked of each staff member concerns their dreams. That’s when Endre discovers that he and Maria regularly experience almost precisely the same dream.
We’ve already seen this dream. It takes place in a snow-covered forest where two deer, a hart and a doe, meet. They are searching for food, and as they do they make gentle contact with one another.
At first the psychiatrist, quite understandably, believes she’s being made a fool of; how is it possible for two relative strangers to experience the same dream? How indeed? That’s the conundrum set by Enyedi and it’s the starting point for the appealing romance I mentioned earlier. The director has this much in common with Isle of Dogs director Wes Anderson; they both make wholly original films that could never be made by anyone else. The very idea of a romance set in a slaughterhouse is truly weird, and it’s certainly confronting at times; yet it’s also strangely beautiful, touching and satisfying.
Enyedi’s cinematographer, Mate Herbai, has filmed this unusual story in a cool, almost detached style, using the expanse of the Scope screen to maximum effect — the result is never less than beautiful. And Enyedi shares with the late Czech director Milos Forman the ability to switch from the tragic to the comical and back in a nanosecond.
The film’s title invites us to speculate on the existence of the soul. If the animals we kill for food had a soul, or if we thought they did, would it make a difference? Given the current controversy over the treatment of Australian livestock being shipped to the Middle East, Enyedi’s theme seems unusually pertinent.