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The head of a failing French family thinks that fate has smiled down on him when the daughter of a wealthy man agrees to be married to his son. The daughter and her aunt then travel out to the French countryside to meet with the family, unaware that a mysterious 'beast' is stalking the vicinity. Written by
If, like me, you like your films to be unique, and unlike the majority of other movies, then I wholly recommend that you check out The Beast. The film is a grotesque, erotic, fantasy fairytale that centres around a mythological 'Beast' that is rumoured to wander the grounds of a French mansion and lusts after women. The film is very daring with it's subject material, and that is something to give it credit for. The theme of bestiality is a definite taboo, and for good reason, I might add; but the film conveys it; straight and to the point. Like other films that handle a taboo subject at their centre, The Beast could have gone around it, and made us use our imagination to fill in the gaps, but Borowczyk didn't do that, and he is brave in that respect, especially as making a film like this will leave him open to all kinds of criticisms, but the fact that he went ahead with it, in my view, means a big thumbs up for the guy.
The film starts off with a sequence that sees a randy male horse mount a female. This opener puts an exclamation mark on the film and prepares the audience, in some ways, for the incredible, tour de force of eroticism that they are about to see. The scenes which see the beast mate with the woman are gratuitous and shocking, and are bound to offend many people (hence the reason it was banned for over 20 years), but these scenes are not merely an excuse for Borowczyk to shock the viewer; this film has a defining point. As said during the film; the only difference between man and beast is intelligence. Both man and beast have instincts, only man knows how to control them. The Beast explores this difference between man and beast through sexuality; the fantasy sequence in which the beast appears epitomises the control of human desire, and it is only when the central female character lets go of her control that she can see the beast. The film has strong themes of the age-old story of 'beauty and beast' weaved into it, and overall this is a shockingly morbid tale of lust, but not without a moral.
Many criticise the scenes around the film's shocking sex sequences for being boring, but these scenes are important to the film's story. Without these scenes, we wouldn't get to know the characters or the story of the beast, and, most importantly; the story of 'beauty and the beast' would not be able to have it's horrifying conclusion dealt to the audience, and as that is one of the key elements of the film; it would be a real shame. Besides that, Borowczyk keeps his audience entertained through these scenes, not with shocks, but with dialogue and the upper class persona of the family, along with the beautiful shots of the mansion's ground would not be seen, and therefore the stark contrast between that and the events later on in the film would not exist either.
Overall, The Beast is a shocking film. It's portrayal of a taboo subject and the shocking way it is portrayed will ensure that this film is not for everyone. However, if you can get over the film's shock, and embrace The Beast; what awaits is a skilful and beautiful piece of art that should not be missed by anyone that is willing to give this film a chance.
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