A future without emotional involvement, a love during three different historical eras. Bertrand Bonello ventures into science fiction in his own way in La bête presented in Venice. Mauro Donzelli’s review.
Technology is a public enemy and a source of dystopia. Curious that an art like cinema, born in reality as an avant-garde technological revolution, can be used to warn about the drifts of the future. The great terror is the loss of humanity, a kind of depersonalization that prevents emotions, which are the lifeblood of the spectator experience at the cinema. In the case of The Beast, The Beastreturn of Bertrand Bonello after the appreciated Comathe starting point, freely adapted, is a short story by Henry James that becomes an opportunity to tell a woman who, while in a strange, vaguely Cronenbergian machine, undergoes a treatment to give her DNA a good cleaning, because in a distant future about twenty years artificial intelligence reigns supreme and precisely the aforementioned emotions are considered a threat.
Precisely to get rid of any encrustation present in the genetic heritage, he will go back to past lives where he will be reunited with different versions of his great love, Louis, played by George MacKaywhile the protagonist, Gabrielle, is always convincing Léa Seydoux. Speaking of emotions, it warms the heart and makes it melancholy, regardless of the AI, to think, as a final dedication recalls, that he was the late Gaspard ulliel having to play the role of the protagonist, after having been for Bonello Yves Saint Laurent. The bête jumps between 1910, today and 2044 and in a constant brush between the couple, while he is invoked several times, until he becomes a real boulder that weighs on everyone’s serenity, the feeling of imminent catastrophe.
A melodrama with a different temperature, warmer in the past and decidedly cold in today now dominated by icy bad technology, in sequences that take us to Los Angeles, in a villa in the hills where Gabrielle lives keeping an eye on her while the owners are away and George appears like the typical psychopath ready to carry out a massacre, because he is a virgin and women (he takes it especially with blondes) have never considered it. Worse, they deluded him and then let him go. There is no shortage of social videos to spread his resentment and a circle closes on the risk of femicide and on the rooms, strictly all glass, in which Gabriele lives. We are near David Lynch, for atmospheres and non-linear construction of visions, realities and projections from the outside.
Gabrielle is also an actress, which increases the game of projections and glances, in which Bonello leads a game that seems to go around in circles for a long time, before getting to the crux of the matter in the final part, with a dance between the characters not really that original in finding responsibility in an aseptically understood contemporaneity. All after two and a half hours of story, with a more satisfying first part, set mostly in Paris in 1910. Love and melodrama here, and two high-level protagonists, seem a little lost in The Beast in a context of genre, derivative sci-fi futurism and a little indifference.