The Power of The Beast

April 19, 2024

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4 stars

The year is 2044, and science has devised a way to make humanity completely compliant. This is achieved through a technology that allows individuals to regress through their current and past lives. Any time the program discovers emotional pain or trauma, it simply erases the memory. This process, known as purification, results in a flesh-and-blood AI that lives to serve. This chilling concept sets the stage for one of the most terrifying futures ever put on film.

At the heart of The Beast is Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux), a character whose journey is marked by fear, trauma, and a desperate search for love. Initially, she is gripped by fear, her apprehension about the procedure making her refuse to participate in the future’s grand social experiment. The trauma that haunts her is deeply personal: she continually falls in love with different incarnations of the same man, Louis (George MacKay). Determined to find out if, by deleting her past, she and Louis have a future, Gabrielle makes a courageous decision to surrender.

The Beast isn’t told linearly. It jumps between three distinctly significant periods in Gabrielle and Louis’s relationship: Belle Époque-era Paris (1910), early 21st-century Los Angeles (2014), and their present day. In Paris, she is a bored housewife, and he is a suave Englishman trying to woo her away from her stultifying domestic prison. In LA, she’s a wanna-be model who makes her money housesitting for a wealthy couple, while he is a right-wing nut job misogynist American. In 2044, they are lost souls trying to find if the connection they’ve shared in the past is strong enough to survive.

Director Bertrand Bonello (House of Tolerance) demonstrates his mastery in The Beast by skillfully weaving the three story threads together. It’s not just the hairstyles and clothes used to differentiate the periods. Each actor shades their performance in various ways to show how their characters are the same yet very different through the years. The transformation of MacKay from a suave seducer to a maniacal misanthrope is stark, but there are still connections between the two. The connection between Seydoux’s different personas is more subtle and, in its way, more rewarding for the viewer. The complexity of Seudoux’s performance may not be apparent on first viewing, but that’s OK because The Beast is worth watching multiple times.


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