The Beast

France-Canada 2022, 146 mins
Director: Bertrand Bonello

Bertrand Bonello on ‘The Beast’

The Beast deals with a lot of disparate ideas and themes, some of which you explored in Coma . When and how did you begin conceptualising the new film?

For me it was a mix of many desires, the first being a desire to make a melodrama. That’s what led me to The Beast in the Jungle, which for me is one of the most heartbreaking, beautiful and tragic melodramatic novels.

Another desire was to mix genres. One of the ideas in the novel is that love is fear. I wanted to go further into that fear by adding some other sections, such as a slasher tale in a more contemporary setting, and then a futuristic story, where you have this horrible dilemma of having to choose between being able to love and being able to work.

Lastly, I wanted to make a film with a female lead, which I had never done before. I started writing the film about five years ago, and at one point it began to feel like a miniseries. It took me a long time to find the right form.

It was also delayed at one point due to the pandemic, which is when I made Coma. So yes, because of this there is a relationship between the two films. There are some ideas in The Beast that I was first able to try out in Coma, which, among other things, taught me that it requires a lot of work to make a truly free movie, one that goes from one universe to another, one period to another, one texture to another.

What made you finally want to make a film about the future?

It’s the future, but it’s also the present. It’s tomorrow. I think I made a mistake setting the film in 2044. It should probably be 2027. I didn’t realise when I started writing the script that the AI themes would be so contemporary. I liked the idea of trying science fiction for the first time, but a science fiction that’s almost familiar. Sci-fi is usually either hyper-technological or post-apocalyptic. I wanted to find another way. This is mostly just the world as we know it, except that behaviour has changed.

Can you talk about the idea of expanding the novel into a film set in three eras?

One of the reasons the film begins with the party in 1910 is because that scene establishes all the concepts in the film right away. That scene is the closest to the book; all the dialogue comes from it. Having set up all these themes allows them to naturally permeate the other stories, but the changes in time periods also impact those themes. We can say that in the 1910 section Gabrielle has a fear of love, but in 2014 it’s Louis who has that fear, which he expresses a different way, by repressing something and not saying it. And in 2044 Gabrielle understands that fear, but it’s too late.

At what point did you decide to set the contemporary portion of the film in Los Angeles?

It came from the Louis character’s story in that section, and the videos he shoots while stalking Gabrielle. I won’t say that we don’t have incels in France, but these kind of videos, at least for me, do not work in French. It’s a very American phenomenon, like only America could create this character, which is in fact based on the American mass murderer Elliot Rodger. So for me this part of the film had to be set in LA.

When did you learn about Elliot Rodger?

I saw all the videos when it happened, and I immediately wrote his name down in my notebook, where I keep ideas for possible projects. What interested me wasn’t the fact that he killed some girls, but the videos, and the words he’s using. For example, if I had written the character’s dialogue myself, instead of taking it from Rodger’s videos, it would have been crazier and more evil. What’s scary about his words is that they’re so calm, so normal.

Those scenes almost have a Lynchian quality to them.

It’s funny you say that: there was a screening of the film in a Paris a few days ago, and someone told me that in one of Louis’ videos you can see David Lynch’s house in the background. I don’t know if that’s true, but maybe there’s a connection there. As a French person shooting in LA, you can’t help but see so many images from cinema history coming up inside you. It’s mythological.

The two films I did watch before shooting were The Age of Innocence (1993) and When a Stranger Calls (1979). The period connection with The Age of Innocence is probably obvious, but When a Stranger Calls was useful to get some ideas for the 2014 section in terms of how to stage scenes with a girl alone in a house, and how to use objects, like the phone, or sounds, to build tension. Of course, there’s also techniques taken from all sorts of slasher films, from Halloween (1978) to Scream (1996), but When a Stranger Calls was of particular use. I really love that film.

How did you come to the idea of using the Great Flood as the first of the film’s catastrophes?

My idea for the film was that each section would have an intimate catastrophe and a collective catastrophe. I chose the flood for the first collective catastrophe because of the images and footage of it that survives, and the feelings they evoke. I use some of that archival material in the film. But I also liked the year 1910 because it’s a moment where everyone thought we were entering a century of peace and progress, and the 20th century has been terrible. 1910 is a luminous moment; four years later Europe sunk into a dark tunnel of war.

When I saw the film in Venice it had a QR code in place of the credits, which I thought might be a temporary thing, but I’ve heard that’s how it’s continued to show?

Yes, it’s definitive. If you scan the code there’s an eight-minute credit sequence, as well as one cut scene. For me a credit sequence is part of a film, so I thought it would be perfect – since things end with Gabrielle crying and Louis showing no emotion – to conclude the film with something equally emotionless: a QR code. It somehow becomes even more lonely for the viewer in that moment.

Interview by Jordan Cronk,, 24 May 2024

Director: Bertrand Bonello
©: Les Films du Belier, My New Picture, Arte France Cinéma, 9459-5154 Québec Inc., AMI Paris, Jamal Zeinal Zade
a Les films du Bélier, My New Picture, ARTE France Cinéma, Sons of Manual, AMI Paris, Jamal Zeinal Zade co-production
Produced by: Justin Taurand, Bertrand Bonello
Director of Post-production: Christina Crassaris
Script Supervisor: Élodie van Beuren
Screenplay: Bertrand Bonello
Based on a treatment by: Bertrand Bonello, Benjamin Charbit, Guillaume Bréaud
Adaptation/Dialogue: Bertrand Bonello
Loosely based on ‘The Beast in the Jungle’ by: Henry James
Director of Photography: Josée Deshaies
Steadicam Operator: Loïc Andrieu
Editor: Anita Roth
Production Designer: Katia Wyszkop
Costume Designer: Pauline Jacquard
Make-up: Maïna Militza
Hair: Miguel Santos
Music: Bertrand Bonello, Anna Bonello
Sound: Nicolas Cantin, Clement Laforce, Jean-Pierre Laforce

Léa Seydoux (Gabrielle Monnier)
George MacKay (Louis Lewanski)
Guslagie Malanda (Poupée Kelly)
Dasha Nekrasova (Dakota)
Martin Scali (Georges)
Elina Löwensohn (seer)
Marta Hoskins (Gina)
Julia Faure (Sophie)
Kester Lovelace (Tom)
Félicien Pinot (Augustin)
Laurent Lacotte (architect)

France-Canada 2022©
146 mins

A Vertigo release

Never miss an issue with Sight and Sound, the BFI’s internationally renowned film magazine. Subscribe from just £25*
*Price based on a 6-month print subscription (UK only). More info:

Welcome to the home of great film and TV, with three cinemas and a studio, a world-class library, regular exhibitions and a pioneering Mediatheque with 1000s of free titles for you to explore. Browse special-edition merchandise in the BFI Shop.We're also pleased to offer you a unique new space, the BFI Riverfront – with unrivalled riverside views of Waterloo Bridge and beyond, a delicious seasonal menu, plus a stylish balcony bar for cocktails or special events. Come and enjoy a pre-cinema dinner or a drink on the balcony as the sun goes down.

Enjoy a great package of film benefits including priority booking at BFI Southbank and BFI Festivals. Join today at

We are always open online on BFI Player where you can watch the best new, cult & classic cinema on demand. Showcasing hand-picked landmark British and independent titles, films are available to watch in three distinct ways: Subscription, Rentals & Free to view.

See something different today on

Join the BFI mailing list for regular programme updates. Not yet registered? Create a new account at

Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email