Monday, January 13, 2014

In My Skin (2002)

Director – Marina de Van
Writers – Marina de Van
Production Company – Lasennac & Associes, Canal+, CNC
Stars – Marina de Van

Written, directed, and starring Marina De Van, In My Skin is nice little flick that follows a woman named Esther. Esther becomes increasingly obsessed with inspecting and mutilating her body after a very strange accident she has at a party one night.

My crazy notes, it helps my goldfish brain remember things...Spoilers 

I’ve never been to a movie set, nor do I have any reel (get it reel…lol) knowledge of film making.  I do know that I get super impressed if someone directs a movie. I’m crazy impressed if someone writes and directs a movie.  I’m just floored when someone writes, directs, and stars in a film – How on earth!!  That’s damn impressive.

Esther is at a party one night and she’s insanely wounded by a trip she takes while taking a walk.  Esther doesn’t first notice this gaping wound, in fact she only discovers it when she notices blood all over the carpet of the house she’s in.  She eventually has the wound looked at, and as you can imagine the doctors perplexed that she didn’t first notice the wound.  Esther almost seems impressed with herself during the scene, or at least very fascinated.

Esther starts to get urges throughout the film, first glances, then touches, then the actual mutilation.  It’s very terrifying to see something come over someone so strongly that they need to take control back and feel normal by harming themselves – but I guess there’s many off putting things that folks do these days.

The people that surround Esther are her boyfriend, Vincent and her “best friend”, Sandrine.  Vincent is almost always suspicious and concerned with Esther. Sandrine is plagued with jealousy towards Esther as she’s surpassed her ranking at the office.  This plays itself out in one of the most heartbreaking and high intensity scenes.

Jealous and bitter to Esther, but highly aware of what she’s going through.  Sandrine lets some fellow co-workers come severely close to finding out Esther’s secret. Sandrine lounges back and watches as some other people almost expose Esther’s leg to everyone at the work function.  It almost played out like a group egging on a beating, and then one person comes to their senses seeing the absolute panic and terror of the victim.  Her dual personality is almost exposed, I was completely nervous for Esther to be found out, my heart raced.  Marina did a wonderful job with this scene.

Throughout out the rest of the film Marina becomes increasingly fascinated with herself. You find this fascination in shocking and subtle ways.  The subtle is an arm falling asleep and Esther’s fascination with that feeling, it’s almost a turn on at this point.  The shocking is a wonderful little dinner scene where her feelings of being cutoff and unrelatable to the group are represented in a most visual way.

The film does get a little more shocking as time goes on, as Esther gives in more and begins an almost affair with her body.  She becomes highly erotic with herself, almost making love to her own body – but with mutilation and very long gazes where she takes in every inch of herself.

Increasingly her urges are represented visually so that you can understand what’s going on in her mind, when she’s set off. I did find some of the split screen imagery to be distracting during the end of the movie.  Once the split screens are no longer used I was really haunted by some of the shots though.  Esther just fully taking herself in, covered in blood.  It seems like she was really “jiving” with her body.  Maybe she was actually seeing herself – maybe she was at one with herself and her mutilation and the real feeling it was giving her?

I dug this film, mostly.  There was something missing for me, I wasn’t connected to Esther in a large way – except that I was nervous for her to be found out.  I didn’t want her to be shamed – but I also didn’t quite compute what she was trying to accomplish because I’ve guess I always thought about self- mutilation as a way that released pain and I wasn’t completely aware of what pain she was experiencing.  Then again, maybe her pain was her disconnect from her body?  I have no true knowledge of what drives the general population to have this sort of behavior – but it definitely wasn’t this version - and by this version I don't mean I think it's wrong.  I think it's just a very original interpretation both story wise and visually.

I guess I have a lot of questions I would ask the film maker, but maybe she’d rather I draw my own conclusions.

If I take Esther’s story as being hers, and only hers – I liked the movie just fine.  I wasn’t enthralled or deeply moved except for empathy for Esther, but I was definitely interested in this film makers story and direction.  Worth a watch for sure.

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