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The World Is Always Ending In This Sweeping Sci-Fi Romance

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The World Is Always Ending In This Sweeping Sci-Fi Romance

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Summary

  • The Beast
    examines past lives’ influence on the present, focusing on a central pair’s history.
  • The film mixes genres excitingly, with horror constantly looming in each story.
  • The fear depicted in
    The Beast
    reflects contemporary anxieties, emphasizing the importance of feeling over forgetting.
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The Beast is an apt title for a film that often feels untamable. A centuries-spanning romantic odyssey that is equal parts strange sci-fi and high melodrama, Bertrand Bonello’s film is unclassifiable, wild, and refreshing. The French director examines how the past never stays in the past and how the baggage we attempt to rid ourselves of from moment to moment, or even from life to life, will inevitably rear its oft-ugly head.

The year is 2044: artificial intelligence controls all facets of a stoic society as humans routinely “erase” their feelings. Hoping to eliminate pain caused by their past-life romances, Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) continually falls in love with different incarnations of Louis (George MacKay).

Pros

  • Though spanning centuries, The Beast brings modern fears into the story
  • Léa Seydoux and George MacKay are excellent
  • The Beast knows how to balance its sci-fi and romance
  • The film lovingly highlights the importance of feelings and not forgetting

The Beast Moves Through Time To Unveil The Past Lives Of Its Central Pair

How they influence the present is just as important

In 2044, Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) is trying to rid herself of that baggage through a procedure that purifies a person’s DNA, purging the patient of leftover emotions from their past lives. This procedure will rid her of these past traumas that cause Gabrielle to feel a lingering sense of doom in the present day. What that doom entails remains a mystery, but she’s not the only one hoping to temper feelings of disquiet.

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Gabrielle encounters Louis (George MacKay) while prepping for the procedures, and she is drawn to the man with an air of familiarity about him. When she finally dives into her past lives, we see her encounter different versions of Louis that change the course of her various lives. First, the pair meet in Belle-Époque-era Paris. In another life, Louis is an incel stalking Gabrielle as she house-sits a Los Angeles mansion while working as an actress.

The Beast Plays With Genre In Increasingly Exciting Ways

But the inevitability of horror lies around every corner

Lea Seydoux submerged in black good in The Beast
Léa Seydoux in The Beast. 

In all of these lives, Gabrielle is near fatalistic in her conviction that some bad thing will befall her. The Beast‘s real terror, though, comes from actualizing this feeling in its various tales. Whispers of Paris flooding follow Gabrielle and Louis in the early 20th century. Misogyny and violence hover over Gabrielle’s life in 2014 Los Angeles. The threat of control follows her everywhere in 2044. The film’s score and sound design are unsettling as they mimic or even impact what’s happening onscreen.

All of these disparate elements feel like they shouldn’t work together, but it’s their discordant qualities that allow
The Beast
to coalesce into a symphony of anxiety.

Tight string arrangements follow Gabrielle as she’s stalked through the Los Angeles mansion. Sweeping orchestral music accompanies Louis and Gabrielle’s outings in Paris and deep synths serve as a backdrop for the film’s minimalist future. All of these disparate elements feel like they shouldn’t work together, but it’s their discordant qualities that allow The Beast to coalesce into a symphony of anxiety.

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In The Beast, The Apocalypse Is A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The end is just the beginning

The world is always ending in The Beast, and it’s easy to see our own world reflected in the ones portrayed by Bonello. Seydoux’s dialed-in performance — detached but all too aware — ensures that we are never too comfortable. Gabrielle’s anxieties are much like our own — sea levels rising, political unrest, the erosion of the truth and empathy. Ironic detachment is the mode of our times, but when the irony disappears and all that remains is indifference, the world starts to feel a lot like the future in The Beast.

Even the film itself begins with detachment personified. In 2014, Gabrielle films a scene for what appears to be a horror movie, but in place of the empty house and horrifying monster, the floor and background are green screen. The director asks if she can be afraid of something that isn’t really there. Gabrielle says she can. The fear we create in our heads is just as real as the fear created by a world in disarray. Those fears can manifest in people, in world-ending events, or in ideologies.

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By the end, The Beast knows that this fear — Gabrielle’s and our own — is not something that can be purged. It is this fear that allows Gabrielle to be sincere, to search for meaning in a world where it is being sucked out of the air. In 2044, Artificial Intelligence rules the world after an unspecified catastrophe.

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This catastrophe isn’t the one Gabrielle is afraid of, but it is one that perhaps influenced her fear of the future. Our minds are always searching for something to be afraid of. Sometimes we need that fear. Bonello posits that, even in fear, feeling is more important than forgetting, and every little death is a door to another future.


The Beast

opens in select theaters on Friday, April 5, expanding to more theaters on April 12.



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