A filmmaker consistently unafraid to wade through the weird miasma of contemporary life, Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama; Coma, NYFF60) works from the outside in, dramatizing the psychological toll of the political and cultural world around us. Here he has created a dynamic and disturbing parable that jumps between three different time periods (1910, 2014, and 2044) to diagnose our acute—and perhaps eternal—feelings of estrangement and alienation. Using Henry James’s haunting 1903 short story “The Beast in the Jungle” as his film’s provocative inspiration, Bonello tells the story of a young woman (Léa Seydoux) who undergoes a surgical process to have her DNA—and therefore memories of all her past lives—removed. In so doing, she realizes her fate has long been intertwined, for better and worse, with a young man (George MacKay). Touching on modern anxieties of AI and incel culture, which may recur throughout history as commonly as love and hate, The Beast, like all good science-fiction, asks essential questions about the ever-shifting status of humanity itself.
Recommended Film Comment reading:
- The Film Comment Podcast: The Beast (Toronto 2023)
- Interview: Bertrand Bonello on Zombi Child (2019)
- Directions: Bertrand Bonello
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