The Beasts is released on 24 March in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema.
The Beasts is a film that gets under its audience’s skin through its powerful, politically charged discussions on the perilous impact of ex-pats in a remote Galician village. With a UK premiere at Glasgow Film Festival, as part of the Viva el Cine Español, a celebration of Spanish cinema, The Beasts, has been recognised with prizes at both the Goya Awards and the Césars. It is easy to see why it is a nail-biting exercise in tension as a neighbourly dispute becomes violent following the arrival of a middle-aged French couple, Antoine and Olga (Denis Ménochet and Marina Foïs) in a small village.
The Beasts displays a bleak, brutal perspective within austere settings as Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen sets the scene from the outset. Here a horse is put down by the sheer, brute force of men; it is a brutal, laboured scene with no dialogue, but its visual depiction aptly captures the villagers’ beliefs and capabilities. This village upholds traditions and doesn’t take kindly to outsiders who wish to interfere with the status quo. It is a solemn message, but it doesn’t faze our French couple and their desire to instil positive change.
The Beasts could effectively be described as a battle of wills, but at its heart also lies a series of ecological discussions. As a French man, Antoine believes in freedom of expression and liberty and lives in the village, restoring homes to provide better living spaces. However, it is difficult to infiltrate Galician village life. Despite his altruistic intentions, he is viewed with suspicion at every turn as locals talk of him taking their jobs away. Plus, his protest against the ecological investment by a large corporation on the Galician land is also met with resistance by the locals, creating unintended consequences.
Ménochet delivers a superb performance as the strong-willed Antoine in this compelling, foreboding thriller. A sense of underlying dread permeates the film as Ménochet captures the essence of a man who is naively trying to provide better solutions for a community he now attempts to call home. Meanwhile, his wife Olga seems content to follow his plans to work on the land together. Sorgoyen quietly explores the mundane elements of their day-to-day life, from working on the accounts to planting new vegetables and beginning construction work on the houses. As such, any shift in these dynamics is acutely felt as their neighbours’ resentment begins to manifest.
Despite the rural settings and the mesmerising cinematography, Sorgoyen’s direction embraces technology as surveillance equipment is installed, and Antoine and Olga connect with family in France. Meanwhile, the long-angle editing effectively conveys the isolation that Antoine and Olga may encounter without ever admitting this to each other. The Beasts is an acute examination of the parochial nature of some small communities. Here Sorgoyen’s vision remains critical of the villager’s defiant belief in isolation and the newcomer’s desire to change the village infrastructure to mirror their own needs.
The Beasts environmental message also offers an interesting perspective, as it explores the fact that not all purportedly ‘green’ initiatives are environmentally friendly. The result is an outstanding and compelling film with much to unpack as audiences are left unnerved by a series of chilling developments.
Spain | 2hr 17min | 2022
The Beasts’ environmental message offers an interesting perspective, as it explores the fact that not all purportedly ‘green’ initiatives are environmentally friendly. The result is an outstanding and compelling film with much to unpack as audiences are left unnerved by a series of chilling developments.