Movie Review: 'The Beasts'

By John Thomas

They are not welcome to Spain’s Galician countryside because they are not natives – they’re French. To make matters worse, Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and his wife, Olga (Marina Foïs), are university educated and practice organic farming.

The couple have relocated to this beautiful rural countryside to lead a simpler life, farm the land and perhaps improve some of the abandoned homes to attract new persons to live in the village.

The other, and main, conflict between the natives and the “Frenchies” is the subject of wind turbines. A large wind energy company has been buying land in adjoining villages before installing wind turbines. All members of these small rural communities must vote in favor of selling their land – vote must be 100%.

Antoine doesn’t feel income for the sale of their properties will be enough to fund the lifestyle his neighbors dream of enjoying. He understands more about economics than the hill people and feels the presence of the ugly turbines will spoil the beauty of the countryside.

The first vote was cast and failed to pass – six to two. Besides Antoine, there is one other villager who doesn’t want the turbines. Aggressive arguments and thinly veiled threats ensue between the Anta brothers and Antoine in a cantina following the vote. The two native brothers, Xan (Luis Zahedan) and the mentally troubled Lorenzo (Diego Anido) live with their mother next door to Antoine and resent the couple’s presence in their village.

The threats are acted upon when Antione and Olga find empty wine bottles inside their house and, in the garden two of their upholstered chairs have been urinated on. They report this to the police who have very little interest in investigating as there is no evidence that the Anta brothers were involved.

Days later, while tending to her crop of almost ripened tomatoes, Olga cuts one open to find it black inside from lead poisoning. Antoine rushed to the well that holds irrigation water for the tomatoes and finds two automobile batteries sunk to the bottom. The batteries have contaminated the well water. Again, the police offer little support as there is no evidence to prove the Anta brothers’ involvement – physical contact between the brothers and Antoine and Olga on an empty road late one evening push Antione to take more aggressive action.

With a camera concealed in a pocket, Antione plans to record his interactions with the brothers. The plan works until the brothers become aware of what’s happening and escalate their dangerous behavior. Walking in the woods with his dog one afternoon, Antione spots Lorenzo lurking among the trees. Up ahead he sees Xan standing in the middle of the path. Sensing danger, Antione turns on his camera and tucks it out of sight at the base of a tree.

One year later, Olga continues searching the woods for her missing husband, examining places he liked to walk. She methodically maps each square meter of ground she covers. On one such excursion, she finally finds evidence for the police – the camera.

Directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Credits: Apagón, Negación), “The Beasts” runs 137 minutes and is a “should see” for a curiously intriguing crime story based on true events that was presented at the Cannes Film Festival.

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