The Beast (French: La Bête) is a 2023 French-Canadian science fiction romantic drama film directed by Bertrand Bonello from a screenplay he co-wrote with Guillaume Bréaud and Benjamin Charbit, freely inspired by Henry James’ 1903 novella The Beast in the Jungle. It stars Léa Seydoux and George MacKay, with Guslagie Malanda and Dasha Nekrasova in supporting roles. It had its world premiere in official competition at the 2023 Venice International Film Festival. It will be released theatrically in France by Ad Vitam on 28 February 2024.
In the near future where emotions have become a threat, Gabrielle finally decides to purify her DNA in a machine that will plunge her into her past lives and rid her of all strong feelings. She then meets Louis and feels a powerful connection, as if she had always known him. The story unfolds over three distinct periods: 1910, 2014 and 2044.
- Léa Seydoux as Gabrielle
- George MacKay as Louis
- Guslagie Malanda as Poupée Kelly
- Dasha Nekrasova as Dakota
- Martin Scali as Georges
- Elina Löwensohn as Clairvoyant
- Marta Hoskins as Gina
- Julia Faure as Sophie
- Kester Lovelace as Tom
- Félicien Pinot as Augustin
- Laurent Lacotte as Architect
- Weronika Szawarska as Veronica
- Jasmine Van Deventer
- Xavier Dolan (voice)
- Benjamin Crotty (voice)
- Adam Carage (voice)
- Bertrand Bonello (voice)
- Douglas Rand (voice)
On 20 January 2021, French magazine Les Inrockuptibles reported that on 14 January 2021, Arte France Cinéma had allocated support for Bertrand Bonello’s next film, La Bête, a sci-fi melodrama starring Gaspard Ulliel and Léa Seydoux. The film is a co-production between France’s Les Films du Bélier, Arte France Cinéma, My New Picture, and Canada’s Sons of Manual. Bonello produced the film with Justin Taurand, alongside co-producers Xavier Dolan and Nancy Grant. Ad Vitam will release the film in France, and international sales will be handled by Kinology.
Bonello started writing the screenplay in 2017 with Gaspard Ulliel and Léa Seydoux in mind for the lead roles, after having worked with both of them in the 2014 film Saint Laurent. The screenplay, freely inspired by Henry James’ 1903 novella The Beast in the Jungle, was written by Bonello with contributions from Guillaume Bréaud and Benjamin Charbit. The 2014 incel version of the character Louis was based on Elliot Rodger, who uploaded a misogynist manifesto to YouTube and then killed six people and injured fourteen others near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara on 23 May 2014.
Filming was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was scheduled to start in April 2022. In the meantime, Bonello directed the film Coma (2022) instead, which featured Ulliel in the last movie he filmed and the last work he finished. Ulliel died on 19 January 2022 following a skiing accident, and the filming for The Beast was delayed again. On 13 February 2022, Bonello told Variety that he would likely recast Ulliel’s role with a non-French actor. Bonello later explained that he wanted a non-French actor in order to avoid any comparison with Ulliel, so he decided to cast an American or British actor instead.
On 16 May 2022, Variety reported that British actor George MacKay was cast as the male lead. Bonello found MacKay through an American casting director, and he was the last person that Bonello met for the role and was cast after a few tests in London. Bonello said that it was obvious that MacKay was the right person for the role after two or three minutes following the tests. Variety also reported that the film would take place in Paris and California, would be shot in French and English, and that filming was scheduled to start in August 2022. Bonello said that the only thing he changed in the script after MacKay was cast was that he wrote the 1910 segment of the film half in French and half in English. On 4 September 2022, Léa Seydoux told Deadline that George MacKay learned French for the film and that filming would resume in late October.
In June 2023, Bonello said in an interview with French magazine Paris Match that The Beast is the film he is “the most proud of today”.
Principal photography started in Paris on 22 August 2022. Filming also took place in Los Angeles without permission for a couple of nights. Filming wrapped in October 2022.
Bonello told IndieWire that the film was rejected by the Cannes Film Festival.
The Beast made its world premiere at the 2023 Venice International Film Festival on 3 September 2023, where the end credits were replaced with a QR code that redirected to a link with a video with the credits. It had its North American premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. It was also invited at the 28th Busan International Film Festival in ‘Gala Presentation’ section and was screened on 6 October 2023. It was also selected to the Golden Spike competition of the 68th Valladolid International Film Festival.
The film was originally set to be released theatrically in France by Ad Vitam on 8 November 2023, but the release date was pushed back to 28 February 2024.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 85% of 34 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The website’s consensus reads: “Unwieldy but rewarding, The Beast uses its sci-fi conceit to explore intriguing themes in largely satisfying fashion.” Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 80 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating “generally favorable” reviews.
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