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The Beast in the Jungle 2023 Movie Review
The club as a place of endless (im)possibilities. Here, a man and a woman have been waiting together for 25 years for a mysterious, all-changing event. From 1979 to 2004: from disco to techno. The story of a love and an obsession.
If Patric Chiha’s ( Brothers of the Night ) apathetic adaptation of Henry James’ novella of the same name weren’t completely deaf to its complex psychological and social problems, his stunning contribution to the Berlinale Panorama could be interpreted as almost absurd real-world satire. A film about joylessly wasting your time, which is itself a waste of time. A story about missed opportunities, whose philosophical, humorous and system-critical potential lies completely fallow, cast with characters who wait in vain for an event while the audience in turn hopes that something will happen.
The admonishing moral of the bitterly ironic template lies in the fact that this is not the case. The director and co-screenwriter Jihane Chouaib ( Léa ) seamlessly and uncritically transferred their conservatism, elitism and dogmatic definition of meaningfulness and happiness to the pseudo-cool club setting, where John ( Tom Mercier ) and May ( Anaïs Demoustier , Coma ) meet each other in 1979. The bouncer and storyteller ( Béatrice Dalle , Lux Aeterna ), who considers herself the physiognomist of night owls, lets them both into the club, where they see each other weekly for 25 years.
John is waiting here for an unspecified event and May is waiting with him. What both think and feel about each other and the rest of the world represented by music and fashion, the plot and the performers cannot convey. Emptiness and boredom on every level, psychological, emotional and intellectual, dominates the dance floor from which friends disappear without the passive couple caring. By the time John realizes more action would be nice, it’s too late. Also dramaturgically.
With a lot of glitter, soft focus and artificial fog, Patric Chiha films two people living side by side for decades in a setting fogged by nightclub nostalgia that looks like a dreary factory hall full of extras in clothes donation costumes. For Henry James, 120 years ago, this was a tragic affront to (his) conservative social ideal of marriage, succession and achievement. Today it is tragic, because the phlegmatic parable wearily babbles along without ever asking whether the hamster wheel of fulfilling one’s duty is not the true waste of youth.