BUDAPEST, Hungary – With two Oscars in the past two years, Hungary’s film industry has been on a winning streak. Now the creators behind the movie “On Body And Soul,” a surreal love story, are hoping to score a third Academy Award.
Ildiko Enyedi’s first film in nearly two decades comes on the heels of “Son of Saul,” which won the 2016 Oscar for best foreign language film, and “Sing,” which won best live action short last year.
Enyedi is the only female director in the foreign language category this year, and her film is about two people working at a slaughterhouse whose relationship begins in shared dreams but who have trouble connecting in daily life.
The movie has been gathering awards from Sydney to Mumbai, and won the top prize at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival.
Producer Monika Mecs said a key to the film’s success was in creating an empathetic relationship with viewers.
“This is a wonderful love story, a film of love about two people very distant from each other and about them finding each other,” Mecs said. “In a slightly clumsy way, it’s very hard for them to communicate, they misunderstand each other, but in the end their love is fulfilled. I believe that then viewers recognize themselves in these characters.”
Alexandra Borbely, who was named best actress at December’s European Film Awards for her role as Maria, a mildly autistic slaughterhouse technician, highlighted the film’s timelessness.
“It’s not influenced by social or political events or what the current social problems are,” Borbely said. “I can imagine that if they watch it 10 years from now, it will have the same effect on people.”
While Borbely has had some small roles in a few films, the Slovak-born Hungarian is better known in Hungary for her theatre work. “On Body And Soul” was her first leading role and her European acting award has been a real confidence booster.
“I decidedly feel that I’m acting in a much more courageous manner … that I can think more creatively about a role,” Borbely said.
The film’s approach to a love story comes with a twist, as Maria and Endre, played by amateur actor Geza Morcsanyi, discover by chance that they are having the same dreams — both dreamt they were deer in a forest.
“Since this was Maria’s first encounter with love in her life, for me it was also like reliving that process,” Borbely said. “I was really able to experience how it was when it happened to me for the first time.”
Mecs said the subject matter was “eternal” and universal.
“Love itself has engaged many for centuries. It’s timeless and it’s understood everywhere around the world,” Mecs said.
Hungarian cinema has been enjoying an upsurge, winning numerous awards at film festivals across the world as well as the Oscars. The industry has benefited from ample state support, skilled technical crews and fresh ideas from directors and scriptwriters.
“A new, fresh golden era or golden age has arrived,” Mecs said. “The Oscar glut is part of this very exciting and surprising process.”
Enyedi is already at work on an adaptation of “The Story of My Wife,” a 1942 novel by Hungarian writer and poet Milan Fust.
Mecs said they hope to start filming next year and that the picture will have an international cast and will be filmed in English. Thanks to the success of “On Body And Soul,” the project has garnered interest from producers across Europe.
“To be at the doors of an Oscar is a very big achievement from every point of view,” Mecs said. “It absolutely influences the film’s future as well as the filmmakers’ plans for their next film. These successes are really a huge boost.”