26 May 2009

The Decade List: Dans ma peau (2002)

Dans ma peau [In My Skin] - dir. Marina de Van

After five years of collaborating with François Ozon as both co-writer and actress, Marina de Van unveiled her directorial debut in 2002 with her metaphysical horror film In My Skin. With an ode to David Cronenberg, de Van examines the final frontier of horror films, the body and its dangerous levels of elasticity. After suffering a fall at a party, Esther (de Van) discovers a fascination with her body and its threshold for not simply pain, but sustainability. What follows is expectedly grotesque and ghastly.

The parables to Esther's fascination are abundant, some surprising and others effective despite the foreseeable correlations to the subject matter. The initial flesh wound doesn't introduce itself as a physical manifestation of Esther's lifestyle as a moderately successful businesswoman in a nominally happy relationship with Vincent (Laurent Lucas), but it becomes her obsession, something that seems initially impulsive but also weirdly natural. Esther's self-mutilation evolves into a search for feeling, something of a substitute for the falseness of the people around her and even herself.

While de Van is pointedly critical of the business world Esther places herself in, its treatment of women and even the carnivorous eating habits of these people, In My Skin isn't simply leftist propaganda masking as psychodrama. Both de Van and Esther approach this fascination with that oh-so-Cronenberg clinical eye. While she never avoids the shock aspects of In My Skin, particularly in the film's nauseatingly effective sound design, the suggestions and ramifications of Esther's "disorder" cut deeper than any of her literal knives.

With: Marina de Van, Laurent Lucas, Léa Drucker, Thibault de Montalembert
Screenplay: Marina de Van
Cinematography: Pierre Barougier
Music: Esbjorn Svensson
Country of Origin: France
US Distributor: Wellspring

Premiere: 27 September 2002 (San Sebastián Film Festival)
US Premiere: 7 November 2003 (New York City)

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