Wednesday, February 27, 2013

IN MY SKIN (2002)



IN MY SKIN is a French film about a woman who stumbles outside a party and mutilates herself on some unidentified debris.  It's probably not unfair to shelve this with similar French xtreme fare like INSIDE and MARTYRS, although IN MY SKIN is more deliberate and philosophical than those films and less marinated in gore.  Not that there isn't grue here—that would be inconceivable, given the whole premise of the thing.


In this film, though, infliction isn't some fetishy thing that's dwelt upon for its own sake or so some FX person can demonstrate mad skills.  It's (possibly) a stand-in or metaphor.  After mutilated lady Esther's mutilation, her life alters in remarkable ways.  She tallies gains at work, seemingly letting her ambition go free, while simultaneously driving away her boyfriend at home.  It's like the physical breach of her flesh has led to the collapse of aspects of her personality, whether that's inhibition or emotional stability.


The line above references Esther's claim that she didn't feel the original mutilation.  Notice that I put "original" there—as you might have guessed, she starts getting way into expanding injury to other parts of her body.  This leads to awkwardness in social situations and imagery that's semi-reminiscent of My Very First Period stories, hammering down the sexual/sensual overtones of her war with her own flesh.


Other characters fall by the wayside as the film hits the home stretch and we're left alone with Esther and her modified/mortified body, sometimes shown in De Palma-style split-screen because art fucking rules (and because the credits prophesied that this would happen).  The last third isn't quite a flawless triumph, but that's acceptable...what comes before makes it worth the spin.


I have been pretty cool to the charms of French horror.  Most of it feels like teenager-y trying too hard to impress.  IN MY SKIN is a bit more mature and thoughtful, although the film itself warns us against treating it rationally when Esther chastises her boyfriend, "You always look for meanings!"  Why does she get SO into slicing up herself?  Is it a form of rebellion against her professional or love life?  Is it a last-ditch attempt at establishing control over something?  Narcissism and fascination with her own body?  Or inversely a Cronenbergian revolt against the body as an alien thing and potential enemy?


Who knows?  Even without a satisfactory explanation or Cliffs Notes, IN MY SKIN is still well worth seeing.  For lovers of CRASH, France, and backyard wrestling deathmatches.

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