Monday, January 17, 2011


Out of all the modern french filmmakers, Marina De Van is one of the most interesting figures. I've been fascinated by her for some time. I first saw her as the dominatrix sister in the dysfunctional black family comedy; 'Sitcom', and have been a fan ever since (*thanks Sarah Landset*). She's an equally talented actress (frequently appearing in Francois Ozon's films) and director (I wasn't crazy about her latest film 'Dont Look Back', but her early-pre 'In My Skin' short films are all excellent). Both her acting and directing are feminine, without being "girly", shallow or weak. Her movies have a strength and masculinity to them that can't be found in a lot of films directed by women (or even men for that matter). And the best thing is that she's only made 2 feature films so far, so i can only imagine how much she's gonna grow as a filmmaker as the years go on. There haven't been too many directors that have been able to share the stage with Cronenberg when it comes to the "Body Horror" genre. 'Bug' and 'Trouble Everyday' are the only two semi-recent films to come somewhat close . But as far as I'm concerned, Marina De Van's 'In My Skin' not only beats the 2 previously mentioned movies (in terms of "body horror" only), but actually gives Cronenberg a run for his money. Even her latest film; 'Don't Look Back' and her early short; 'Alias' deal with body transformation and/or modification in some way.

In the film De Van plays a woman who injures her leg (she accidentally cuts it pretty badly at a party and develops a really bad scar/gash that she keeps a secret). She slowly starts to grow an unhealthy fascination with not only the gash on her leg but body mutilation as a whole. De Van's acting along with the atmosphere of the film almost makes the scar on her leg seem like an actual character of its own (if that makes any sense). She wont let the scar heal as she keeps cutting it open with whatever she can find (pieces of metal, shards of glass and even a rusty knife). What starts with her cutting open the existing scar, turns in to her cutting (and sometimes biting) new scars all over her body. This starts to alienate her from her friends, co-workers and her boyfriend who are all (understandably) freaked out be her new found love of body mutilation (well...her boyfriend, played by Bertrand Bonello Lucas Laurant, is a bit of a moody little bitch). The film's most famous (and difficult to watch) scene involves the lead character locking herself in a room, cutting herself and smearing the blood all over her face in front of a mirror. This scene almost echoes the famous "you talkin' to me" part in 'Taxi Driver', which makes sense, because both films deal with isolation, potential mental illness and loneliness.

Like plenty of other extreme modern french films (Humanite, Trouble Every Day, The Pornographer, etc), 'In My Skin' doesnt have the same amount of dialogue that you'd expect from a film. The film convey's its messages through imagery and the un-spoken (the images from the film below truly capture the vibe of 'In My Skin')

Michael Shannon in William Friedken's 'Bug'
This movie fascinates me the most because it shows a female in a role that would typically be played by a male. Subconsciously we associate blood & violence with men. When we think of women & blood, its either women being murdered or their squeamish reaction. 'In My Skin' totally turns all of that onit's ass. Like i mentioned earlier, Marina De Van utilizes her feminine qualities by accentuating her (very nice) slender body, while giving a strong and commanding performance that many people don't usually associate with female roles. Not many actresses could pull off this performance convincingly. In fact, the only woman to come close is Beatrice Dalle's performance in 'Trouble Everyday', which is probably a film i imagine De Van drew a lot of inspiration from (the intensity in both of those performances is not only uncanny but damn near identical). 'In My Skin', 'Trouble Every Day', 'Bug', 'The Fly', 'Dead Ringers' and 'Videodrome' all share a lot of the same themes like Isolation, Loneliness, Sickness, Sanity (or lack of) and self mutilation. Even non-violent films like Lynne Ramsay's 'Morvern Callar' shares a bond with 'In My Skin'. In fact, even more so than stuff like 'Bug' or Cronenberg's films, because both; Morvern Callar and In My Skin focus on female characters. 'In My Skin' is also on obvious comment on the pressure and insecurities that some women face when it comes their bodies. So yeah, needless to say i highly recommend this. It may not sit so well with squeamish people though...



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