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In My Skin

Probably the most psychologically disturbing film to come around in a long time, In My Skin ("Dans ma peau") is French writer and director Marina de Van's exploration of the human body - specifically, her own - as an object detached from one's self. Look at your foot long enough or repeat a word over and over and it'll start to seem remote, unfamiliar and foreign. De Van plays Esther, a talented research analyst who jeopardizes her promising career after she becomes obsessed over her body following a fall that leaves a nasty gash on her leg but leaves her in little or no pain. She soon feels strangely disassociated from her own body; in one interesting scene she sees her arm literally as a prosthesis. While her concerned boyfriend (Laurent Lucas) tries his best to understand her actions and prevent them, Esther steals every opportunity to explore the limits of pain she can inflict upon herself. With razors and knives she cuts herself slowly with orgiastic intensity, peeling off layers of skin in the process. Slasher films are easy to watch compared to this movie, especially the last thirty minutes. De Van's emaciated body only adds to the film's aura of weirdness. In My Skin shocks because Esther's determination is so exacting and realistically conveyed. It also shocks because her motivations are so incomprehensible. As she foregoes her job and boyfriend, she sinks deeper into madness with little sign of recovery; she turns from an exotic creature into an object of pity and fright. This film demands much from its audience - especially the ability to remember that it's all special effects, not flesh and blood - but it also leaves too much unexplained or half-explored; it lingers on Esther's extreme behavior without finding a solution for it. For people who find self-mutilation a fascinating disorder, not to mention for lovers of experimental cinema, de Van's feature debut will be engrossing and amazing. But most others will probably find this flick a little too cutting-edge for their tastes.