‘The Beast In The Jungle’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: What Happens To John And May?

Let us start by lauding the hair and make-up artist, the costume and set designer, and the cinematographer before anything else. We’re discussing The Beast in the Jungle, Austrian director Patric Chiha’s latest adaptation of the Henry James novella (of the same name) from 1903. Very recently, we’ve had another adaptation (although not a direct one) of the same novella in the much superior The Beast. Chiha’s film, however, is mostly frustrating and occasionally fascinating. The nightclub setting adds a zing to it, but the screenplay falters quite a bit. The one hour and forty-five minutes runtime feels like an eternity, and not in a good way. Anais Demoustier’s magnetic screen presence is what keeps you going. Anyway, let us now try deconstructing The Beast in the Jungle, especially its ending.


Spoilers Ahead

What Happens in the Movie?

It takes a while to get settled into the weirdness of this tale. John and May meet for the first time at a parking lot party in Sardinade. May is the heart of the party, while John is the awkward loner. But the two still connect, and John says something to May that sticks with her. He believes something will happen to him one day—an earth-shattering thing that will change the course of his life. Years later, the two meet again at a nameless Paris nightclub. John is still the same, more or less, and May is more vivacious than ever. He fails to remember their first encounter, but she clearly remembers it. May asks John if the “thing” has already happened; he replies in the negative. The two sort of become friends, although it becomes clear that May is romantically drawn to John. He’s into her as well, but he refuses to acknowledge that. Instead, he comes up with the proposal of her taking this journey with him and experiencing the “thing” together, whenever that happens. As strange as that might seem, May agrees. This implies she has genuine feelings for him, which becomes evident throughout the course of the narrative, which spans about as much as twenty-five years. John and May’s tale is narrated by the nightclub owner, a character that breaks the fourth wall sometimes and wants the audience to call her “the physiognomist” (we’re going to call her the narrator though). The term basically means someone who is able to analyze other people based on what’s written on their face.


When does the “thing” happen?

If there’s one aspect where The Beast in the Jungle has absolutely nailed it, then that has to be making the actors look age-appropriate for the entire runtime—which is why I brought up hair and make-up at the start of the article. Setting the whole story mostly inside the nightclub also prompts the narrative to explore the changing music scene of Paris as well as different sets of crowds. These things play very important roles in enhancing the experience of the audience, especially when there’s not much else in the overly long screenplay. 

As far as the “thing” goes, it’s not particularly hard to understand that the “thing” here is John meeting someone as amazing as May and the two falling for each other. But John has issues with awkwardness and anxiety, which never let him acknowledge his feelings for her. Early on in the movie, when she wants to kiss him, he refuses, and that’s when May realizes that it’s futile trying to confront him. Although May could have directly talked about the elephant in the room, it’s not hard to accept that she didn’t. After all, people often go on with their lives by burying things inside. However, Mary does try to get on with her life. She gets into a relationship with this man, Pierre, and eventually marries him. She stays friends with John, though, and the two continue to meet at the nightclub. There’s only once when we see them taking a stroll outside, only to find themselves at the gate of the nightclub once again. Years pass by in a jiffy, Paris gets plagued by AIDS, people die, and then the nightclub is filled with new faces. Chloe, the cloakroom girl of the nightclub, takes an interest in John and becomes his girlfriend, only to get her heart broken in the end. May lambasts herself for getting jealous over John and Chloe’s relationship, but she can’t do anything about it. 


What happens to John and May?

There’s a scene in The Beast in the Jungle where May asks John if he believes that thing is love. John dismisses it, stating that it can’t be something as trivial as love. He’s obviously an idiot (pardon my French) who is living in denial, and this scene is also a foreshadowing of what’s to come. And it’s definitely nothing good. 

There are countless scenes in the movie that serve as proof of May’s love for John. He’s clearly the reason she comes to the nightclub. When her friends and Pierre decided to go somewhere else, she wouldn’t leave because John wouldn’t go anywhere else. Alice, a character who should be considered her closest friend, stops visiting the club one day, but May doesn’t even notice. Even her marriage with Pierre finally breaks, and she doesn’t mind letting him go. Pierre is of course “the other guy” in the movie, but he’s portrayed as a reasonable husband, much like Arthur’s character in last year’s Past Lives. Of course, after fifteen years, he’s had enough of it and can’t continue with May anymore. But John is still waiting for “the thing” to happen, while Mary is slowly moving towards death. It’s unclear what exactly happens to her, but the moment you see May coughing blood (that too on a new year, denoting how terribly sad her life has become) on the floor of the club, you know for a fact she’s done with life. 


The nameless nightclub finds a name: “The Beast in the Jungle,” which is both the title of the film and a metaphor for John. The beast is clearly the “thing” he’s waiting for, and he starts to believe it’s just waiting for him in the jungle. May stops coming to the nightclub, but she doesn’t disappear from John’s life. The two keep meeting at her place, where they have repetitive conversations regarding the thing. John has made some improvements by now, realizing that May might have some idea about what it might be. But he’s still oblivious to it, and at this point, the audience wants to hit their heads against a wall (at least I wanted to). 

Does John finally realize? He does, but May had to die for it. Watching him break down over her grave, breaking the watch she’d once gifted him on Christmas, doesn’t make you feel anything for him. Here we have a man who has lost the love of his life only because he was too scared to ever admit his feelings. On the contrary, watching Pierre sob hard over May’s grave is something that I found to be truly heartbreaking. There’s no doubt that the guy loved May the most, but sadly for him, she had given her heart to someone else for her entire lifetime. The Beast in the Jungle ends with where it started: the party at the parking lot, where we see Mary finally sitting beside John, and he’s about to tell her something. Well, would it be an exaggeration if I said he’s about to ruin both their lives? 

Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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