Directed By: Marina de Van
Starring: Marina deVan, Laurent Lucas
Hollywood loves to pigeon hole films into easily defined genres. If a movie doesn’t fit into a standard genre it’s rewritten to death until it does. The marketing teams in Hollywood have become extremely lazy. What would they do with a film such as In My Skin? Is it a horror movie? Not really. Is it a fantasy film? No, well maybe a little. Is it a drama? Yes, there are strong dramatic elements, but it’s so much more.
Marina de Van took on quite a task with this film. She wrote it, she stars in it, and she directed it. But, I don’t think In My Skin could have been made any other way. She had a very clear vision of what she wanted from this story when she wrote it and it shows in the final product. Explaining what she wanted from this lead character to another actor would have been difficult. She knows this character through and through and she portrays her in a believable way, which is astonishing considering the circumstances of the film.
Esther (de Van) is a successful business woman with good friends and a great relationship. She seems to be plodding along in a very typical lifestyle. She is different from her friends though. Early in the film at a party right away her best friend begins mingling with other guests while she would rather explore the unfinished house on her own. She is curious, and this curiosity may have been the key to her falling into the abyss that would soon follow. While exploring she slips and cuts a deep gash in her leg. She doesn’t realize it immediately though. She returns inside, talks with her friends, and goes out for a drink before finally heading for the hospital.
She soon becomes infatuated with the enormous cut on her leg, picking at it when she is nervous or bored. This quickly spirals into a surreal world of self infatuation and mutilation. At first she fights it, trying to hide what she has done to herself but eventually she gives in to her urges in the most graphic of ways even eating her own skin.
There’s a lot more to this movie than the obvious gore that is realistically and shockingly portrayed throughout the film. The story also makes observations about the human condition obvious and subtle. For instance the title In My Skin represents not only the obvious mutilation but also the fact that she is living in the skin of a successful business woman, with good friends, and a good love life, but is she truly happy or playing her part in the world? Would she prefer another skin? Or does she love her “skin” as representative of her life so much that it becomes an icon of it and she must experience it in every way possible?
There is an overt eroticism to the more graphic scenes. While she is performing these unspeakable acts of self mutilation she seems to be embracing her own body, caressing it, and even kissing it in one scene (it’s not funny although it may seem so in this description). She seems to really love her skin, even trying to preserve it in a bizarre turn of the film.
It really seems to me that she realizes through her accident the monotony of her life. The need to mutilate herself seems to come initially during the most mundane work or family related situations. One very Cronenberg moment finds her fighting with her own hand during lunch with clients. I need to watch this movie again, maybe multiple times to really decide what I want to take from it on a psychological level. Yes, Esther has lost her mind, but what really drove her to it?
In My Skin is the best conversation film of the year period. de Van comes by her influences honestly as this film’s slow quiet nature reminds of David Lynch and the super gory surreal scenes are very Cronenberg. The film is shot in a grainy natural documentary style that makes the whole thing seem more real and more shocking. I can’t say it enough, this film is a masterpiece. It’s disturbing, not doubt, but if you look beyond the gore, it’s thought provoking as well. I think I gave this film a 9/10 in my theatrical review but seeing it a second time reveals how it stands up to multiple viewings so I have to revise my previous decision
In My Skin is low budget grainy affair from the beginning with inconsistent lighting and a flat color palette. Don’t think this is an insult because it isn’t. All of this adds to the real feel of the film and is done purposefully by the filmmakers. As far as the transfer goes dark scenes are a little softer and lower in detail than I remember from the theatrical release and I did notice a little extra grain due to compression but overall not bad.
The audio plays an important part in this film and its very well represented by the DVD. There is a 5.1 that features crisp dialogue and vibrant sound effects. The only downside is that it’s heavily front and center channel loaded for a surround mix. But, this film is dialogue heavy and not much happens off camera to be sent to the rear speakers. You pretty much see everything and you hear it nice and clear too.
The DVD audio track is French with English subtitles.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The artwork for the amaray case is very well representative of the film a little odd and a little gross.
The DVD features a commentary track from writer/director/star de Van that can be listened to in French with English subtitles or the audio can be turned off with the commentary subtitles left on. The commentary is very informative and offers excellent insight into the creation of the character and de Van’s motivations for writing the story. The commentary actually offers a whole new way to look at the story. Well done.
There are two short films from de Van that really showcase her talent and also reveal the basis from which In My Skin evolved. Both films Alias and Psy-show are twilight zone sort of oddities. I’d almost recommend watching these films first so you have a good idea where de Van is coming from.
Also on the disc is the theatrical trailer.
In My Skin is a remarkable film that defies category and spurs fascinating conversation. One of my favorite films of the year.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 10/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 7/10
The Bonus Features 7/10