Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s psychological thriller about outsiders in a Galician village is ’a brooding, muscular piece of filmmaking’
Dir: Rodrigo Sorogoyen. Spain/France. 2022. 137 mins
Antoine and Olga (Denis Menochet and Marina Fois) are outsiders in the place that they have chosen as their home. They are French, educated and committed to improving their environment, both ecologically and through the restoration of the many derelict village houses. Their neighbours, in a tight knit community in Galicia’s rural interior, are insular ‘hill people’. And while many are welcoming, an argument over planning permission for a wind farm sparks tension with a pair of brothers which escalates into a full-blown feud. The latest from Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen is a terrific psychological thriller and a brooding, muscular piece of filmmaking which makes the most of both the Galician backdrop and the imposing physicality of Menochet and, as his nemesis Xan, the remarkable Luis Zahera.
A percussive and urgent score adds a scratchy, nervy quality which is in clever contrast to the film’s visuals
This is the Cannes debut for Sorogoyen, who was previously Oscar-nominated for his short film Madre and won the Jury Prize at San Sebastian in 2016 for May God Save Us. Further festival exposure is likely and, with the name recognition and stamp of quality brought by Menochet and Fois, plus the sustained tension of the filmmaking, The Beasts could prove to be a title of interest for arthouse distributors or curated streaming platforms.
From the opening sequence, slow motion footage of a wild horse being wrestled and subdued by men who bear the scars of living this close to nature, there’s a bracing, feral savagery to the filmmaking. This is a land which is tamed by sweat and testosterone, where faces are etched by the hard-scrabble realities of day-to-day survival (plaudits to the casting director for the authentically earthy-looking supporting cast). It’s not surprising that, although Antoine and Olga toil over their market garden, the privilege of their background marks them out as dilettantes in the eyes of the locals. There’s a crackle of menace in the local bar, even before local blowhard Xan sets his sights on Antoine (or ’Frenchie’ as he derisively nicknames him). A percussive and urgent score adds a scratchy, nervy quality which is in clever contrast to the film’s visuals – even when Sorogoyen permits us to see the beauty of the landscape – and it is a lush and mysterious terrain – he undermines the rural idyll with abrasive music and the hard pebble eyes of the locals.
Antoine bristles at the provocations and mounting antagonism and responds by covertly filming the heated interactions with Xan and his slow-witted but sly younger brother Lorenzo (Diego Anido). This only inflames the tension, as the level-headed Olga predicted it would. Sorogoyen captures the prickling animosity between the men in a phenomenal scene, filmed in a single unbroken shot, in the bar; he then revisits the technique for a no less explosive altercation between Olga and her daughter.
And while the jostling of the men and the sense of mounting threat is compellingly unsettling, it is Olga as a character, and Fois as an actor, who is the film’s secret weapon. The men spend a lot of time brutishly flexing muscles, but Olga, cool and unwavering in her quest for justice and revenge, shows what real strength looks like.
Production Companies: Arcadia Motion Pictures, Le Pacte, Caballo Films
International sales: Latido Films firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Ibon Cormenzana, Ignasi Estapé, Anne-Laure Labadie, Jean Labadie
Screenplay: Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Isabel Pena
Production design: José Tirado
Cinematography: Alex de Pablo
Editing: Alberto del Campo
Music: Olivier Arson
Main cast: Denis Menochet, Marina Fois, Luis Zahera, Diego Anido, Machi Salgado