The Buried Beast
In a century prey to “information overload” (fatigue and anxiety linked to too much stimulation by current events), Bertrand Bonello’s cinema is precisely loaded, even overloaded with images. It is perhaps even this saturation which makes his work so significant, and so in tune with its time. In this jumble where nothing has any meaning, the young terrorists of Nocturama sought through their actions a platform, the expression of despair by the creation of symbols of violence.
There is a form of tragedy there: the impossibility of a return to the sources, while the characters get drunk in the second half of the film on the shelves of the Samaritaine, a capsule of consumerism where all types of products are sold. intermingle. More than ever, Bonello makes the heterogeneity of his staging a trademark. From its first sequence, which isolates Léa Seydoux in the heart of a green screen setting, The beast appears in search of images; images which in no way seek a form of fluidity. What interests the filmmaker is the side stepmutation and glitch.
What do we choose to project onto this mosaic? For Gabrielle (Seydoux), it is a thwarted love affair with Louis (George MacKay, seen in 1917) which she never knew how to interpret. And for good reason, since this story is that, repeated, of his previous lives. In 2044, a future where Artificial Intelligence rids humans of their emotionsshe agrees to revisit this heavy past to “clean up her DNA”, between the Paris of the early 20th century and the Los Angeles of the 2010s.
As in the short story by Henry James which inspired it, The beast rests on an evanescent threat, the fear of an imminent catastrophe pushing the characters towards a comfortable, risk-free life. We return to the inaugural green screen where Seydoux, directed in the story by Bonello, must imagine the monster who is about to kill her. We must force ourselves to live and feel, even when we know that the ax is about to fall without being able to materialize it.
An ideal casting
Bonello white and white bonnelo
Once again, the filmmaker is at his best when he takes the pulse of this generalized concern, which he has the merit of keeping abstract. It’s in the air and between the imagesa source of anxiety whose only remedy is nothing more than a reassuring nostalgia symbolized by these nightclubs with outdated playlists.
We feel that Bertrand Bonello is implanting his own dystopian concerns in this cold science fiction, and this is where the feature film pulls. On the one hand, the director avoids the trap of taking a contemptuous view of his subject, and includes himself in this “evil of the times” through the prism of his invasive referents (starting with David Lynch, whose specter hovers over the entire film). The other, the overflow of The beast can’t dodge the melting pot of indigestible influences, even if its modernity suffers. His vision of a future controlled by AI is too superficial and caricatured to convince, even though it serves above all as a metaphorical anchor.
THE scene from the film
If Bonello’s formalism has fascinated us for a long time, he has just passed a milestone in the theorizing of his cinema, which can be seen as a logical continuation of his filmography or as a point of no return. Like Léa Seydoux, filmed like a malleable white canvas which absorbs images and their ghosts, The beast captivates time and time again. If only for this aquatic sequence in a doll workshop (playing in the context of the Paris floods in 1910), the staging captivates as much as it disconcerts.
However, this referential juxtaposition reaches a limit encapsulated by the complacency of its length (almost 2h30). Despite the time he allocates to give substance to its multiple layers, the film never really manages to go beyond its cerebral dimension. A climax for a work which deals with the reunion of its protagonists with their emotions.
From the weight of images
This is even the paradox: The beast could be totally labyrinthine, and agree to let go of its zapping effect to best reflect this saturation of the senses. Yet, Bonello can’t help but go against the wind, to give direction and connection to his shots and scenes through the presence of somewhat easy motifs. Unless that is the whole point of the feature film on the eternal resistance of memory and order in the face of the chaos of media overflow.
The film seems to be fighting against itself, to the point of pushing its experimental thirst around this same idea in a final act with horrific inspirations. The images challenge each other, overlap, transform and rewrite themselves, even if the expected tragedy strikes, again and again. We can remain perplexed by this fatalism, or on the contrary embrace all its strangeness, both contradictory and stimulating. We decided to do both at the same time.