In My Skin (2002)
By: J.R. Gregory on July 5, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Siren Visual (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). French DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 90 minutes
The Movie
Director: Marina de Van
Starring: Marina De Van, Laurent Lucas, Lea Drucker
Screenplay: Marina de Van
Country: France
AKA: Dans ma Peau
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In My Skin continues the long tradition of using the body as a metaphor for interior decay. This tradition can be seen most clearly in France, where auteurs like Franju and Polanski have delivered challenging and confronting visions of the body as a location where internal conflicts are played out in full view. This was continued by later Directors such as Cronenberg, Tsukamoto and Fujiwara, who have continued this exploration in ever increasing explicitness. Adding to this genre is Marina De Van with her perspective, a challenging arthouse film, a work that she obviously feels passionate about, having directed, wrote and taken the leading role.

In My Skin centres on Esther (Marina De Van), a young, ambitious researcher who is seemingly in control of her life. One night at a party she suffers a fall that she does not worry about initially. However, a while later when using the bathroom she discovers a deep gash on her leg and is compelled to seek medical treatment. So begins her journey to unearth who she truly is.
Esther finds herself obsessing about her injury, studying it in great detail, touching and examining it compulsively. She begins to recognise how this affects others around her, particularly through the revulsion of her partner (Laurent Lucas), although he does stand by her for the sake of the relationship. Esther continues to examine how it affects her own self-image by touching her skin, stretching her flesh, before eventually succumbing to the desire to inflict further damage to herself. All this occurs against a background where she has received a promotion at work, she has begun living with her partner and they have started looking to buy a place together. As her life appears to be developing positively, Esther retreats, seeking comfort in her increasingly bloody and disfiguring self-examinations.

This is a strangely cold film, and I think that this is in large part because of the manner in which Esther is portrayed. She seems very aloof and separate from the world around her. Even when she is taking huge chunks out of herself she seems almost surprised at what she finds. In her explorations she drinks her own blood, enjoys chewing her own fat and collects pieces of skin with the hope of preserving them forever. Ultimately, here is a character that is separate from everything, including herself.

In My Skin is well-shot and restrained in its direction. There are some genuinely unsettling and occasionally surreal sequences - a personal favourite would be the restaurant scene - and lots of blood. De Van never lets the material veer into exploitative territory, preferring to keep a lot of the bloodier moments just out of sight through the use of split-screens and clever editing. The peripheral characters in this are not particularly well-drawn and seem to be merely observers to what is happening, having no impact on Esther's behaviour. At the end of this film I was left with an interesting question; why do I find it more disquieting to watch someone inflict such damage to themselves rather than when someone is doing it to another?
The traansfer is clean and clear, and presented in a1.85:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement.
Sound is crisp and clear. Presented in French 2.0 with English subtitles.
Extra Features
Does anyone think Chapter selections are extras anymore? Otherwise there is nothing else on offer here.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
In My Skin is a clinical examination of one woman's bloody exploration of herself and how she relates to the world around her. Considering the subject matter, shown in a cold manner for the most part, this is restrained but testing material. How you appreciate this movie depends largely on how you relate to the central character. Namely, do you find her tortured or torturous?

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