‘The Beasts’ Themes, Explained: The Several Layers That Make Up Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s 2022 Thriller Film

The main plot of Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s 2022 psychological thriller “The Beasts” revolves around a French couple tormented by two of their neighbors after they settle in the Galician countryside. A man trying to lead an honest life is faced with increasing hostility from his neighbors, which leads to his death at the hands of the two brutish cattle-herding brothers named Xan and Lorenzo, and it’s even sadder to learn that Sorogoyen was inspired by true events where a Dutch couple faced similar circumstances at Santoalla. Watching the movie reveals quite a few apparent themes that paint a picture of the society at the time and the attitude some people harbor against people from other countries. With hate being the central theme of the story, here are some of the other major themes that are explored in “The Beasts.”

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Spoilers Ahead


Xenophobia

One of the most distinctive themes in the thriller is the obvious xenophobia the French couple faces in the Spanish countryside. From the get-go, Antoine is humiliated by being called “Frenchie” by the two thuggish brothers, Xan and Lorenzo. The Frech globetrotter/ teacher’s intellect supersedes that of the cattle-herding imbeciles, which flares the hatred inside their hearts, and they find myriad ways to express their disgust. A simple game of dominoes descends into viciousness as Xan keeps pointing out how Napoleon Bonaparte’s comments about the Spaniards centuries ago are somehow Antoine’s fault. Imagine bullying a German tourist for the crimes of the dictator who committed mass genocide—such is the logic when hatred is the fuel. The two brothers can be excused by saying they’re greedy and scumbags, but the local police aren’t much better either. Xan reminds him that he has spent his entire life in the small town while Antoine arrived two years back, so he has no claims to the land he was never born in. Antoine’s repeated complaints receive a tepid response, and all they can offer is the promise to speak to the brothers; when he finally decides to film the harassers, the lawmen arrive swiftly. The two brothers can be excused repeatedly, but Antoine confronting them is immediately flagged as illegal. From suspicious stares to deliberate attempts to cheat Olga later when she tries buying sheep, the dislike for the family because of their nativity leads to an immensely hateful situation for Antoine and, later, Olga.

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Jealousy 

This is a broad term, sure, but seen from the perspective of the two brothers who made it their life’s goal to destroy Antoine; it’s strangely accurate. Xan couldn’t wrap his head around the concept of a man who was far superior to him, never mind his dim-witted brother, could grow organic crops, sell them for a profit, restore old houses, and again sell them for a profit, and also be well-liked by some other people in the town. While Xan’s own life was stuck in the same muddy ditch where his cows fed, Antoine would swim in the pools and the lakes and video call his daughter back home in France. He wanted a life as good as the Frenchman’s but wouldn’t work for it. Instead, he wanted to rely solely on the money that the Norwegian wind turbine company would pay. The massive difference between the intellectual wavelengths of one who has traveled the world and one who’s chosen to confine himself to a tiny corner of it was very apparent in the way the two men led their lives, and Xan would almost turn green with envy. The two brothers were never appreciated by any womenfolk, and the small Galician countryside wasn’t home to women who were as classy and elegant as Olga. On every level, Xan found something that was lacking in his life that Antoine had in excess—be it the love of a beautiful wife or the adoration of a child. This raging jealousy gave way to hatred, which would, in turn, result in an even worse crime.


Hatred 

If the apparent xenophobia wasn’t enough hatred, consider someone urinating on their neighbors’ deck chairs to show the ill will they nurture against them. Xan’s jealousy over Antoine’s successes as opposed to his own life’s failures leads to the Galician cattle herder spitting in the Frenchman’s face while psychologically attacking him for not signing over his land at other times. The petty distaste turns criminal when the two brothers sneak onto Antoine’s property in the dead of night and throw car batteries inside the well that fed the crops. In three weeks, a year’s harvest is ruined, and had anyone eaten the tomatoes; they’d have died of lead poisoning. Stopping someone’s car in the middle of a road at night while armed with a rifle clearly falls in the category of illegality, and while we’ll cover that later, this shows that their hatred was no longer about sneak attacks and knocking over alcohol bottles, but they were openly threatening Antoine’s life. Soon enough, this becomes a reality as the brothers stalk Antoine on the forest path before cornering him and strangling him to death like they’d tame a beast. Thus, Xan’s immense hatred blinded him to the point that he could no longer see a decent man as a human with needs and instead decided to kill him because he didn’t give in to their arbitrary demands. Hate is a very corrosive emotion, and it can lead to ruined families, and although it’s inadvisable to give into it, had Antoine taken pre-emptive measures against Xan, he’d have been alive. 

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The Failure Of Law

The lawmen in the town of Galicia were probably the most incompetent lot of police officers, and their xenophobia against Antoine because of his nationality didn’t help either. They wrote off urinating on someone’s property as a neighbor’s tiff—nothing that couldn’t be solved with a conversation over a beer. When Antoine’s crops were ruined, he decided to lure the culprits into confessing while catching them on camera, which angered the policemen against the man who’d had an entire year of his work ruined. Apparently, filming someone inside their property is considered wrong if the ones being filmed are Spanish, but having someone’s crops poisoned can be solved if the policemen talk to the concerned party. It’s unclear if Antoine went to the cops after he and his wife were blocked in the middle of the road and terrorized by the drunken brothers, who could’ve turned to violence at any moment.

After Antoine went missing, the police barely spent any time looking for him and depended entirely on Olga’s efforts to keep the search going. The local lawmen were so clumsy that they let a woman roam the wilderness alone with a stick in hand while they waited on her updates if she found any. It’s totally reasonable that Marie had an outburst at the police station; it’s a shame that she didn’t speak Spanish fluently enough to let the lawmen know how they were useless louts. The search started properly only after Olga found Antoine’s camera, and she contacted the superiors of the uniformed fools who sat with their hands clasped as Antoine got murdered. The advanced search party manages to find Antoine’s body, and the two murderous brethren probably see justice, but had the local police been a little more skilled at their jobs, a good man needn’t have died in the first place. 

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See more: ‘The Beasts’ Characters: Antoine, Olga, Marie, Xan, And Lorenzo, Explained


Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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