This heady, sci-fi examination of yearning, obsession, and existential dread by visionary French auteur Bertrand Bonello stars Léa Seydoux and George MacKay as two lovers connecting and reconnecting across time and space, all while catastrophe looms.
A heady, centuries-spanning sci-fi examination of love, obsession, and existential dread, The Beast is the latest feature by visionary French auteur and TIFF regular Bertrand Bonello. Freely adapted from The Beast in the Jungle, Henry James’ classic novella of destiny, ardour, and foreboding, the film stars an effortless Léa Seydoux as Gabrielle and an equally magnetic George MacKay as Louis, two star-crossed lovers whose fatal attraction endures across time and space.
In a near future dominated by artificial intelligence, human emotions have been deemed a threat. In order to purge hers and purify her DNA, Gabrielle must navigate her past lives to try to isolate the lingering pangs, not only of passion, but also of clutching fear. In both 1904 France and 2014 Los Angeles, she encounters Louis anew — a dashing English aristocrat in the former time, a bitter incel in the latter. Despite each dramatically reconfigured dynamic, an inexplicable yearning remains. Lurking alongside, however, is a palpable sense of premonition: the metaphorical beast.
Exquisitely shot and brazenly nonlinear in construction, The Beast moves sinuously between each richly realized set piece. It’s Bonello’s most ambitious film to date, high concept and speculative in every sense, and directing questions of “what if” toward not just an imagined future, but also what came before. A thrilling mix of sweeping melodrama and suspenseful, horror-tinged dystopia, The Beast harbours a deep uncanny that taps into our multiplying contemporary anxieties.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content warning: accident trauma, frightening scenes, drug use