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In My Skin - Wellspring Print E-mail
User Rating: / 3
Written by Ray Casta   
Saturday, 12 January 2008

"In My Skin" DVD Cover - Severed Cinema

AKA: Dans ma peau, Coupures
Directed by: Marina de Van
Written by: Marina de Van
Produced by: Laurence Farenc
Cinematography by: Pierre Barougier
Editing by: Mike Fromentin
Special Makeup Effects by: Dominique Colladant
Music by: Esbjorn Svensson, Bassmati
Cast: Marina de Van, Laurent Lucas, Léa Drucker, Thibault de Montalembert, Dominique Reymond, Bernard Alane
Year: 2002
Country: France
Language: French
Color: Color
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Video: NTSC R1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1 French (English Subtitles)
Distributor: Wellspring
Deeply unnerving, “In My Skin” is as important as it is shocking.  Instead of offering explanations to its viewers, it realizes how serious of a matter that self-mutilation is; which is why Marina de Van's vision studies all possible connections and motivations that a person would have.  Any person who inflicts severe pain upon themselves, digging deeper into cuts they make, may not particularly have a reason for doing so.  If we are given a solitary reason why a person, whether a male or a female, is dangerously obsessed with their own bodies, the sheer complexities of the terrifying reality would have been undermined greatly.  As her feature film debut, de Van even stars as the focal point; she is the individual obsessed with her body.  Self-mutilation is depicted as a metaphor, in the startling exploration of the many things that surround us in our daily lives: the need for control, power, envy, sex, addiction, and pain.  The director plays Esther, an ambitious businesswoman in her early 30's who plans to move in with her boyfriend, Vincent (Laurent Lucas).  Sandrine (Lea Drucker), a close friend, drags her along to a party one night.  There, she becomes very bored.  Once she leaves the party and walks around outside, she trips over a metal object, cutting her leg severely.  The strange thing, however, is that she doesn't feel anything, or notice it until the blood starts dripping down her leg.  After discovering this horrible gash, she gets it properly bandaged at the hospital.  She arrives home, removes the bandages, and begins to experiment by carefully taking a razor to it.

This is only the beginning of her descent into self-mutilation, which is even sexual to her to a point where she eats pieces of herself.  Her boyfriend finds out she doesn't feel pain while doing it and it is something she enjoys.  But when he is compelled to ask her why she does so, she simply says that she doesn't know.  Perhaps she even doesn't at this point.  We don't know, even after uncovering the subtleties of the atmosphere.  In playing this character, de Van is perhaps making a statement that knowing is not the point, but the actual journey is, where every detail functioning in Esther's life culminates.  Her job, for example, is based on supplying specific data for her bosses, and none of the info that she spends much time on matters to her.  Her body is her personal experiment that allows her to figure out more and more about herself.  When she feels her left arm is motionless, she is so fascinated by it that she cuts it at a dinner, in one of the film's best scenes.  At the hotel room that she checks into to be alone, we understand why she takes constraints upon herself; she is losing control -- which she had her whole life -- due to the lack of feeling any pain. 
Notice how Esther had no control over the wound, which was an accident that she couldn't understand.  So this is why she explores by taking pictures of the freshly inflicted wounds, recording how the savagery actually happened and will only develop after the fact.  We see this when she is cutting herself; she is quiet and persistent.  She is cerebral in these scenes, when she practically expresses how little pleasure she gets from her body, feeling isolated by it, possibly envying Sandrine.

Once Esther devotes herself completely to her body, she no longer has use for her dull, boring normal life.  The fascinating thing about it is how exciting her life becomes, but she is unable to notice and embrace the positive turn her life takes.  Her business doesn't seem to mean anything to her now.  All of her hard work has gone down the drain, but the irony is here.  Note how as her addiction rapidly grows, she is promoted in her job and Vincent is happy to be with her, more than ever, because of their plans of a life together.  On a few occasions, I was reminded of the work of David Cronenberg because of de Van's challenging but fascinating study of relationships with the human body and mind.  In the photography of cool colors, de Van comments on how psychological disorder lays under the surface.  Esther checks into a hotel, and she ventures to the most extreme lengths she has ever gone to before.  The camera compares and contrasts, reflecting her frame of mind effectively.  Camera movements are slow and patient, making images more difficult to watch.  After a devastating close-up of Esther, the camera deliberately pulls back, turning away only to expose her disfigured, once beautiful body.  This effect is repeated here, highlighting the rest of the movie: it started as curiosity, but her personal mystery intensifies so it is now impossible for her to touch another person's body.  She allows the viewer to observe herself, but de Van was observing herself more than anything else, especially in the concluding shots, where we see the director pinpoint the ugliness past the beauty on the surface.  "In My Skin" is an audacious personal statement that viewers will be affected by, just as much as they are frustrated.


- Commentary by Marina de Van
- Bonus short films: "Alias" and "Psy-show"
- Theatrical trailer

The only extra we get is de Van's audio commentary, spoken entirely in French with English subtitles. Fans of “In My Skin” or not, the commentary is worth a listen. De Van doesn't keep anything from us by letting us know Esther's motivations, etc. She goes into more detail about the character development than she does with the technical side. Movies such as this are complex, allowing us to analyze and interpret what the director puts on screen, which is why it's a bit unfortunate how de Van fails to mention how multi-dimensional Esther is, given the subtext and what the viewer brings to the material. That is the reason why I recommend it highly; I thought blaming it on one thing like derangement is not giving it enough credit. Hearing from the film's own director that Esther is simply mad is disappointing, but it does make me believe otherwise. What I gathered from the film is that it should not be a simple excuse of the whys on self-mutilation, there should be more than one interpretation. Also included are two short films, "Alias" and "Psy-show" and the theatrical trailer.

VIDEO: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1 French (English Subtitles) 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.No Skull - Severed Cinema




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