To love is to feel, and to feel is to suffer—truths that are intricately intertwined across space and time The beast, the saga of a woman and a man bound by fate and bound across eras. Loosely inspired by Henry James’ 1903 short story “The Beast in the Jungle,” French author Bertrand Bonello’s latest version is a decidedly unique science fiction saga whose mix of recurring images, conversations, scenes and dynamics at times evokes the It is a fascinating meditation on desires, dreams and the things that make us who we are – and without which we are lost.
“There must be beautiful things in this chaos,” says Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux). The beast. At this point it is 2014. But after a prologue in which Gabrielle fends off an invisible enemy on the set of a green screen film, Bonello’s film (which is celebrating its US premiere at the New York Film Festival) is initially located in 1910, where Gabrielle is the pianist and wife of the wealthy doll maker Georges (Martin Scali). At a meeting in an opulent mansion, Bonello’s camera follows her with silky elegance – and occasionally takes her perspective – as she makes her way through the guests to an art exhibition room, where she meets the aristocratic Louis (George MacKay). As it turns out, they met years before, when Gabrielle confessed to Louis her deepest, darkest secret: she is gripped by a consuming fear that fate awaits her in the form of a “rare and terrible thing” that will “obliterate her.” becomes. This misfortune is the figurative title creature, and Louis, enchanted by the beautiful musician, vows to protect her from it forever.
This is how an illicit affair is initiated, albeit slowly The beast takes time for the love between Gabrielle and Louis in the early 20th century. Bonello’s film, co-written with Guillaume Bréaud and Benjamin Charbit, abruptly jumps to the year 2044, where an identical Gabrielle (Seydoux) is interviewed by an invisible artificial intelligence. Gabrielle wants a new job that expresses her distinctly human characteristics, but in this distant future, humanity’s emotions have led to a catastrophic war from which society has only recovered thanks to a cool, rational AI that encourages individuals to join one to undergo a DNA “cleansing process” that frees them from the blockages, traumas and desires of yesterday, today and tomorrow, including those experienced in previous lives. Gabrielle reluctantly agrees to undergo this technological castration, but when she enters the inky bath where it takes place (thanks to a robotic arm and a syringe), she hesitates, allowing her to revisit her previous incarnations of 1910 and 2014 experience.
By changing aspect ratios and perspectives, Bonello fragments his film unpredictably and litters it with motifs – including, humorously, a hotspot called “fractal.” Shots of caressing hands and watery eyes abound, the former intended to convey a tactile sense of connection and the latter intended to express Gabrielle’s inherently sensitive soulfulness. Other symbols abound, from dolls with neutral faces and doves that portend bad luck (when inside) to glittering wing-shaped brooches, uninhibited nightclubs, prescient psychics and Barbra Streisands A star Is Born Click on “Evergreen”. These signifiers all speak to Bonello’s thematic concerns, and they all reappear, mutate and twist (literally, when it comes to a painting of a Buddhist sand mandala discovered in a 2014 home) in fascinating ways ), even if there comes a point where they move. Mere repetition seems excessive.
Central to The beast is Gabrielle’s fear of a catastrophe that she can’t quite describe but that she is sure is on the horizon. Although Seydoux’s protagonist is unable to identify or articulate the source of her fear, she nonetheless regularly expresses (through words and actions) a desire not to be alone, nor to accept a comfortably indifferent life. She is a woman possessed by an innate hunger for more, no matter the decade, and through her longing Bonello grounds his film in universal ideas about loneliness, dissatisfaction and companionship. At the same time, however, he roots his chronologically fragmented material in the here and now, be it with allusions to an American Civil War (a swipe at our current divided domestic reality) or a 2014 plot that skewers modern filmmaking and male resentment and anger.
In this segment, Gabrielle is a struggling actress who, at 30, fears she’s past her prime. While working as a house sitter in a wealthy Hollywood home, she becomes the target of Louis, a self-confessed incel who makes videos about his virginity and the resulting anger toward women. While his 1910 sequences are more overtly romantic and his 2044 passages are cold, disturbing and despondent, The beastThe 2014 thread proves to be the darkest, funniest and most exciting, and features perhaps the best of the three main performances from Seydoux and MacKay. Bonello ups the formal stakes even further during this plot’s climax, freezing, rewinding, and fast-forwarding the action at irregular intervals to heighten the schizo-malleability of the proceedings. In such WTF moments, the film feels highly unpredictable and alive, its echoes reverberating menacingly.
The beast ponders whether love and desire are the triggers of our destruction or, conversely, our salvation, and Bonello is clever enough to complicate this question by providing sometimes contradictory answers. Matters of the heart lead to tragedy, but so do rejection of intimacy, feelings and connection. What remains are Seydoux and MacKay’s stirring evocations of the complex passion of Gabrielle and Louis, which unfolds in different – yet eerily similar – forms depending on the historical era. MacKay convincingly alternates between charming, distant and psychotic as Louis, and Seydoux is even more charismatic as Gabrielle, a loner who struggles with the pressure to conform to societal norms and refuses to pursue happiness even in the face of danger (real and imagined). yourself – actively and instinctively – to reduce yourself. Seydoux’s open face is the stuff film cameras are made for, and in the director’s countless close-ups, she conveys Gabrielle’s passionate, irrepressible spirit.
Twisting the before and after into knots, The beast is a science fiction parable about alarmingly amorphous fear. Its mood may be weakened by the narrative monotony, but overall it uses its David Lynch-esque surrealism to unique ends and finds a way to end on a desperate note that would suit it just right The twilight zone.
Did you like this review? Sign up to receive our weekly newspaper See Skip Newsletter Watch every Tuesday and find out which new series and films are worth watching and which are not.