The Beast

The Beast (La Bête) poster

They might have known each other for a hundred years or only met a few moments before, Louis reminding Gabrielle as they talk in the elegant parlour of a grand Parisian mansion where fountains of blossoms conceal the mirrors of the occasion when they had spoken before and she had confessed a secret to him, of her fear of a beast which would engulf her, but while Gabrielle recalls the conversation her memory of the details is different than his.

Was it Rome, was it Naples, was it six years earlier or three, or is it not 1910 but 2044 where Gabrielle is attending an interview prior to having her DNA purified, part of the process revisiting the events of her past and coming to terms with the strong emotions which dominated her at those times, accepting them and no longer allowing them to have hold over her, a procedure which she is told has a very high success rate but where the rare failures cannot ever be resolved.

The Beast (La Bête); Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) prepares to have her DNA purified.

Taking its premise and its title from The Beast in the Jungle, Henry James’ 1903 novella of a man who lives his life afraid to take chances for fear that something terrible is about to happen to him, The Beast (La Bête) is adapted and directed by Bertrand Bonello, starring Spectre‘s Léa Seydoux as Gabrielle and The True History of the Kelly Gang‘s George MacKay as Louis in all their different versions, playing out fragmentary iterations of their hesitant relationship, both afraid that they are inevitably doomed and unwilling to move forward.

Calmly discussing disasters which might befall them, the streets of Paris flooded in 1910 and Gabrielle forced to wear a mask as she walks the near-empty streets of the city in 2044, recalling both 12 Monkeys and its progenitor La Jetée, the “strange, rare and terrible” doom which she believes will annihilate her is more personal than an environmental disaster, taking its most specific form in Santa Barbara in 2014 where Gabrielle auditions for roles which echo her life in a virtual environment and is stalked by an angry man who posts video diaries raging against women.

The Beast (La Bête); Louis and Gabrielle (George MacKay and Léa Seydoux) meet again for the first time in a Parisian salon.

The three narratives woven together, the themes are abstract but images recur; in the future, Gabrielle’s companion is the “doll” Kelly (Guslagie Malanda) who takes her dancing in the themed club named 1972, while in 1910 she works in a doll factory, their faces blank until expression and personality is painted upon the neutral template, the reverse of the process which Gabrielle wishes to undergo in the hope that it will bring her serenity and acceptance, allowing her to live in the present rather than the past.

With much of the imagery and dream logic of Lynch in the fractured pieces, the red-bathed nightclub, the bizarre cover versions of torch songs, the oblique pronouncements of an online psychic, effectively “the log-on lady,” the final shot of a blonde woman screaming at the camera as her world collapses in on itself, like Lost Highway and Twin Peaks while the broken pieces sometimes overlap they do not form an obvious coherent whole, The Beast an oddity to be experienced rather than dissected and reconstructed.

The Glasgow Film Festival continues until Sunday 10th March

The Beast (La Bête); Gabrielle and Louis (Léa Seydoux and George MacKay) are swept together and apart by the tides of time.



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