A difficult film to watch due to agonizing depictions of abuse, Danish filmmaker Lars p Arendt’s family drama Beast is not a mere exercise in misery, however. While particular to its characters, it also damningly dramatizes truths about the nature and legacy of violence.
The film is a coming-of-age story of a particularly sad variety. Benjamin is initiated into adulthood by defying his father—a well-worn thematic trope, of course. What’s a little more nuanced is the concept of the Beast. There is a literal beast, of course, the prize puppy belonging to his father that Benjamin takes hostage, and the father, an abusing bully, can be said to be a figurative Beast. What is thematically interesting, then, is Benjamin’s transformation—the Beast can only be overcome by an equal or greater savagery which Benjamin must enact on an innocent. In order to cease being a victim and defy his father, Benjamin must become like his father—a familiar tale of the cycle of violence that is nonetheless pleasing in its symmetry.
Beast is a perfect example of a type of prestige European short that tends to fall through the cracks in the online world. Practically omnipresent on the festival scene 3-4 years ago, the short built a massive following of fans, but like so many short films, had no real way to sustain the interest. By the time the film came online, interest from the fans and motivation from the filmmaking team had reached a low ebb. Fortunately, we do have a submission system, and the film’s producer, Troels Faber, was able to put the film forward for our consideration. I remember being quite impressed with the film when I caught it at a festival, and while I do suspect it is one of those films that works better in a cinematic environment, I’m curious to hear your thoughts!