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The Beast’s trailer is a clearer look at the ‘purest sci-fi movie’

One of the bigger stories to come out of 2023’s Toronto International Film Festival was Bertrand Bonello’s science fiction movie The Beast, a dizzying, surreal story about a woman, Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux), reliving three past lives as part of a process to purge her memories and emotions. In each of these lives, she encounters Louis (George MacKay of 1917 and Marrowbone) in a series of emotional relationships that lead in dangerous directions. Critics’ responses were split between strong positives and dubious negatives, but they seemed to agree that it’s a remarkably image-driven, idea-packed film that’s sensual and challenging. The comparison to the Wachowskis’ Cloud Atlas seemed obvious, too, given the separate but linked stories of people echoing across time together.
Polygon’s reviewer, on the other hand, was an unqualified fan of the film. He told us it was “the purest science fiction experience a movie can offer.” The Beast, actually a stylized, high-concept riff on Henry James’ 1903 short story “The Beast in the Jungle,” focuses on emotion and experience more than on the mechanical details of reincarnation or the flashback process, which makes for a gripping, immersive experience. From his review:
The Beast’s three timelines play with seemingly unmixable genres: a classic period romance, a gripping horror-thriller, and dystopian sci-fi. That places them at a logistical disconnect, but Bonello binds them aesthetically and emotionally. Through his lengthy, thought-provoking close-ups of Gabrielle and Louis in each section, he creates a sense of longing and isolation across time, binding together human experiences of the past, present, and future, and putting them into sharp and chilling context.
The trailer is mostly impressionistic, with flashes of energy, grief, and anger, with very few specifics about the story. But if you want a fuller rundown of what, by all accounts, seems to be a fairly challenging and complicated movie, here’s the distributor’s description:
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). Set first in Belle Époque-era Paris, Louis is a British man who woos her away from a cold husband, then in early 21st Century Los Angeles, he is a disturbed American bent on delivering violent “retribution.” Will the process allow Gabrielle to fully connect with Louis in the present, or are the two doomed to repeat their previous fates? Visually audacious director Bertrand Bonello (Saint Laurent, Nocturama) fashions his most accomplished film to date: a sci-fi epic, inspired by Henry James’ turn-of-the-century novella, suffused with mounting dread and a haunting sense of mystery. Punctuated by a career-defining, three-role performance by Seydoux, The Beast poignantly conveys humanity’s struggle against dissociative identity and emotionless existence.
The Beast will debut in American theaters on April 5, 2024.

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