The Beast is a film by Bertrand Bonello released in February 2024. It is a love tragedy in a sci-fi setting with mystical tendencies. The story takes place over three eras. At the beginning of the 20th century and in the contemporary, then futuristic, 21st century.

the beast movie poster

Film summary

Gabrielle meets Louis during an exhibition in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. He tells her that they had already met in Naples a few years earlier. She then told him that she felt great anxiety about a future catastrophe. A catastrophe of which she knows nothing. In the meantime she has made a life for herself, got married, but her fear, although less intense, is still present. Louis offers to protect her. They maintain a friendship which gradually turns into love. After deciding to leave her husband, Gabrielle invites Louis to visit her doll factory while Paris is flooded. When they find themselves alone, Louis tells him of his feelings. Gabrielle hesitates then refuses him while a fire starts. The protector tries to find an exit through the flooded basement to escape the burning factory. Gabrielle soon follows him and the two end up drowned.

In 2014, Gabrielle is living in Los Angeles and trying to launch her modeling career. Her anxiety has not left her. Louis is a lonely and bitter young man, an incel. He has never known a woman and is preparing to take his revenge on one of them. He sets his sights on Gabrielle. He follows her to the house where she lives. The earth suddenly begins to shake and the entire neighborhood finds itself outside. Gabrielle is scared. She sees Louis and asks him to take her home. He refuses, imagining that it is a ploy to humiliate him once again. This convinces him to carry out his plan despite the trouble this woman has created in him. He breaks into the house at night with a gun. Gabrielle sees him and locks herself in a room upstairs. She finally chooses to open the door for him, which he advises her against. She forgives him, kisses him and loves him as in the previous century. He kills her anyway.

In the future of 2044, artificial intelligence reigns supreme and Gabrielle is unemployed like the majority of the population. The useless ones. She wants to find a job but to do so she must go through the purification procedure. While she hesitates, she meets Louis who finds himself in the same situation. She finally accepts and the machine allows her to explore her past lives. Remembering part of her history with Louis, she wants to renew their bond in this new life. Against all expectations, the purification fails. She is satisfied with it and sees Louis again. While they dance, she tells him about the bond that has united them for over a century. So he reveals to her that he already knows because he has also been purified, but successfully. He no longer has any emotions. Gabrielle falls to her knees, crying, and screams her pain at having lost him again.

The Singularity Beast

The Beast is a personification of the oppressive fear that Gabrielle feels. A feeling apparently justified by events. It is a predator that pursues each of her incarnations. Even if disasters do indeed happen, the flood of Paris, the earthquake in Los Angeles, the mysterious cataclysm leading to the world of 2044, the one foreseen by Gabrielle is much more personal. It is the tragic and repeated failure of her relationship with Louis.

The Singularity is the precise moment when Man is overtaken by the Machine. When the most intelligent entity on Earth is no longer human but artificial. The future that The Beast describes is a post-Singularity world. The Machine has taken power and is ruling humanity. As human work is no longer useful for its own survival or perpetuation, the majority lives in idleness.

In his book The Singularity Is Near Ray Kurzweil announces the Singularity for 2045. However, AI has become a cause for concern for several years now. After beating Man at chess and then at the game of go, AI learned to paint, drive and write. This month it learned to make videos. Recent advances in language models, such as ChatGPT, can only intensify this feeling. ChatGPT can write articles, answer questions, imagine stories, solve math problems and even code. All of these skills are emergent properties of a system built on simple techniques that have existed for a long time. They are therefore not even the result of recent revolutionary discoveries as one might expect.

How could Man not be afraid when his supremacy begins to be threatened? Homo Sapiens, who defines himself by his intelligence, could soon lose its monopoly.


Transhumanism, literally “going beyond the human”, is a philosophical movement which advocates the evolution of Man through Science and technology. Thus moving towards a general increase in one’s physical and mental capacities.

For transhumanists, the Singularity is both what makes human surpassing possible and necessary. It makes it possible because all the technologies enabling this evolution can be quickly developed thanks to artificial intelligence. It makes it necessary because Man will not be able to stand up to the Machine if he does not improve. At best, he will become totally dependent on AI and lose control of his destiny. At worst, he will be eliminated. Transhumanism therefore appears as a response to the Beast, to the fear of the Singularity.

Through spiritual tradition

In the world of The Beast, the truth of Buddhist philosophy has been confirmed by Science. Reincarnation and karma are no longer beliefs but facts. The Machine therefore developed a purification procedure. Humans can become aware of their past lives and resolve the trauma linked to them. Thus they become “pure” and get rid of their affects. Like Buddha before them, they achieve enlightenment and no longer suffer.

There is here a transhumanist encounter between technology and spirituality. Even though they do not overtly intend to do so, the film demonstrates that many spiritualities can be read as philosophical forms of transhumanism. As having the aim of surpassing Man and achieving an ideal. Buddhist enlightenment is taken as an example here, but the Christian religion can also be seen through this prism. Christians aspire to follow the example of Christ. Beyond the miracles he performs, attesting to his divine filiation, Christ surpasses Man through the ultimate sacrifice he agrees to make, the suffering he endures and the unconditional love he feels for him.

Through philosophical tradition

Moreover, in this demonstration, the film does not stop at the Buddhist tradition. In 2044, while they are discussing the purification procedure, Louis mentions his interest in the Stoics. In the detachment that this philosophy advocates from external circumstances, we can indeed see a great similarity with the Buddhist ideal.

Far from these thoughts, Nietzsche can even more easily be seen as a transhumanist philosopher. By definition, Nietzsche’s ideal Man is not a Man. The Ubermensch transcends the human. He does this in a way that is completely opposed to the asceticism promoted by most traditional philosophies. The Ubermensch is driven by his passions, he exercises his will to power and rises above the human herd by fully realizing his potential.

Are Men following these teachings to their logical conclusion still Men?

An anti-humanism

All these philosophies claim to be based on nature. In a way, their ideal Man is the only true Man. They therefore poorly hide their contempt for the ordinary Man, his passions and his suffering. He is seen as an ignorant child at best, and as a bloodthirsty beast at worst. Nietzsche, for his part, is fully honest regarding the contempt that the human masses inspire in him. The ordinary Man is perverted by external circumstances. Whether they are embodied by human society or simply by nature, they prevent him from being completely himself.

One of the philosophical particularities of modern transhumanism is that it does not claim to be based on nature. As with these other traditions, Man is very imperfect and must be improved. Increasing one’s capabilities is an end in itself. Whether by genetic manipulation or technological hybridization, all means are good. Man could go so far as to get rid of his fleshly envelope for a total fusion with the Machine. Nature and Man are thus completely rejected.

In The Beast, Buddhism ultimately gives birth to a being devoid of affects. The outside world and his past no longer have any influence on him and he is thus freed from his emotions. He is wise, calm but he no longer feels like a Man. He has become fully compatible with the Machine. This is the reason for the feeling of loss that overwhelms Gabrielle at the end of the film. Louis is now incapable of loving her the way she loves him. Enlightenment here resembles a lobotomy.

Finally, total detachment and the elimination of suffering seem to create in humans a state close to psychopathy. Gabrielle, for example, has a friend who recommends that she carry out her purification, which she has already done herself. Towards the end of the film, they talk on the phone about her sickly old cat. We then see the friend in question wringing his neck without looking at him, without blinking and calmly continuing the conversation. The attachment and the resulting affects have visibly disappeared.

Whatever the teaching, it seems logically difficult to escape the idea that surpassing Man can only lead to his end. That to surpass Man is to kill Man.

Gabrielle saved by love?

There is a time skip during Gabrielle’s purification procedure. This takes place when she witnesses the conclusion of her life in Los Angeles. Precisely between the moment she opens the door and the moment Louis kills her next to the swimming pool. This ellipse is visually represented by missing frames. By sudden back and forths in time strongly resembling a kind of digital video bug.

This accentuates the shock and violence of the murder for the spectator. It’s a way of showing to what extent Louis is consumed by his neurosis, by his hatred of women. However, from a story perspective, this could be a Machine glitch due to the lovers having simultaneous access to memories from their previous life. Since they both undergo the procedure at the same time. Perhaps then it would be voluntary on Louis’ part. He would cause Gabrielle’s purification to fail by preventing her from witnessing all of the traumatic events that affected her last incarnation. He would therefore sacrifice himself, thus obtaining redemption for the acts committed in his previous life and honoring his vow of protection towards Gabrielle.


The Beast is a gripping, relevant and original story. The actors play characters that are both credible, endearing, and very human (or not). The themes discussed are likely to remain topical for a good while longer, when they are not already the subject of millennia-old reflections. I therefore highly recommend this film to all fans of science fiction, philosophy and human dramas.