The film wants to communicate, to anybody who is watching it, that everyday life is missing something. We are very politely softening the edges and covering the essence because it’s too strong, too powerful. The film is about discovering that essence. (Ildikó Enyedi)
Enyedi has led one of the most colorful artistic lives in recent memory. It began with an earthquake when the Hungarian filmmaker received a Golden Camera at the Cannes Festival for her debut, My Twentieth Century (1989). The 1990s lacked such spectacular successes, however, and involved an intense effort to establish herself at the forefront of European arthouse cinema. Then an unexpected disaster struck: for 18 long years, Enyedi was unable to secure financing for her next project. Although she made short films and television series, and also devoted herself to teaching, the world of cinema seemed to have forgotten about her. Fortunately, Enyedi proved she had another powerful punch left in her. With On Body and Soul (2018), a Golden Bear winner at the Berlinale, she reminded us that she is a European filmmaker with her own unmistakable style. You could bet right now that Enyedi's work, with its combination of lyricism, lightness and a sense of humor, will prove to be a discovery for New Horizons audiences on the level of that of Hala Hartley or Leos Carax.
Drawing on the logic of dreams and immersed in the world of classic fairy tales, literally anything can happen in Enyedi's films. In My Twentieth Century, for example, the main thread of the story is abandoned for a few minutes to make room for a story told by a gorilla locked up in a zoo. This sort of treatment demonstrates the director's aversion to formulas and templates, which she nurtured in the 1970s, when she was part of the experimental group Indigo. In rebelling against such formulas, Enyedi's films are based on looking at the world with a cheerful sense of astonishment. This is shared by the director's favorite characters: outsiders discovering the power inherent both in themselves and in other people. In those moments when they manage to make use of this, there is something heroic about them: they're ready take risks and go beyond their comfort zone. Perhaps Enyedi's greatest achievement is that she can capture this miracle just when it is springing to life.
We can see this in the scene in My Twentieth Century when the anarchist decides against detonating a bomb after looking into the eyes of her would-be victim. Another example comes from Simon, the Magician (1999), one of the most romantic and at the same time funniest sequences in contemporary cinema. Here, the title character, a hypnotist from Budapest, meets a pretty girl on a street in Paris. Although he doesn't speak French and he answers every question randomly with "Oui, oui" or "Non, non," both characters sense that they could communicate without words.
There are many more paradoxical meetings in Enyedi's films. In On Body and Soul, feelings arise unexpectedly between the taciturn and withdrawn workers of a slaughterhouse. My Twentieth Century in turn tells the story of the odyssey of twins separated in childhood, who seemingly differ in nearly way: temperament, value system and lifestyle. Regardless, both women (Dorota Segda with a bravura performance as both twins) have a deep desire to be around one another and believe in the possibility of being reunited in the future.
Where does Enyedi get this maniacal tendency to bring opposites together? She has declared herself to be a diligent reader of Carl Gustav Jung and a believer in the concept of "collective unawareness," which says that our psyche, although strongly individual, is equipped with a set of identical patterns for reacting, thinking and experiencing. Enyedi therefore seems to be saying in her films that we are surprisingly similar to one another, and understanding each other seems to be easier than we might think. The extraordinary optimism stemming from this conclusion is yet another testimony to the boldness and artistic originality of the maker of On Body and Soul.
Ildikó Enyedi was born in 1955 in Budapest. She studied Economics and Filmmaking at the University of Budapest and later in Montpellier, France. In the years 1977 to 1985, she belonged to the artist group "Indigo". Subsequently, she worked at the Béla Balázs Studio – the only independent film studio in pre-1989 Eastern Europe; as well as at the "Studio of Young Artists". In 1990 she founded her own production company, the "Three Rabbits Studio", for which she has since worked as a screenwriter and director. Alongside this, she teaches filmmaking at the University of Budapest.
After a number of experimental and narrative short films, since 1989 she has created six feature films that have gained several renowned awards. Enyedi received the Golden Camera Award for the best debut-film at the Cannes Film Festival for My 20th Century (1989). With Magic Hunter and Tamás and Juli, she took part in the Official Competition at the Venice Film Festival in 1995 and 1997. Alongside her feature films, Enyedi made the film montage Geschichten in Gesichtern (Stories in Faces), with which Hungary was presented as the year's guest country at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1999. With Europe (2003), she provided – on the occasion of Hungary's entry into the European Union – a short contribution to the film project Európából Európába (From Europe into Europe) by ten Hungarian directors, including István Szabó, Miklós Janscó and Benedek Fliegauf. Ildikó Enyedi's short film is her answer to the United Europe – a humorous game of tag in which the usual roles can all be jumbled up.
As a lecturer, she has been participating in the Ekran+ program, co-created by the Wajda School, for many years. On Body and Soul is her first feature film in 18 years.
The filmmaker lives in Budapest.
1989 Mój wiek XX / Az én XX. századom / My Twentieth Century
1994 Magiczne kule / Büvös vadász / Magic Hunter
1995 A Gyár
1997 Tomasz i Juli / Tamás és Juli / Tamas and Juli
1999 Szymon Mag / Simon mágus / Simon, the Magician
2017 Dusza i ciało / Testről és lélekről / On Body and Soul