‘Some truths cut deep’
Dans Ma Peau (English title: In My Skin) is a 2002 French feature film written, directed and starring Marina De Van. The film also stars Laurent Lucas (Calvaire), Léa Drucker and Thibault de Montalembert.
The film’s score is by Esbjorn Svensson of the celebrated jazz fusion band, Esbjorn Svensson Trio.
Esther (De Van) is a career-savvy young woman, making her way up the job ladder as an economist, surrounded by unremarkable middle-class trappings. Whilst wandering around in the garden at a friend’s party at night she trips and cuts her leg badly on some metal equipment.
Only realising the extent of the cut some time later, having spoilt the clean carpet of her hosts, she sees a doctor who is surprised she wasn’t in agony. As the wound heels, Esther becomes fascinated with her own flesh, initially re-opening the damaged tissue with a blade, progressing to renting a hotel room so she can tear strips off herself to her heart’s content, whilst having a little nibble into the bargain.
Released in the midst of the avalanche of challenging French films of the late 90’s and early 2000’s (High Tension, Irreversible, Martyrs, etc), In My Skin is no less gruelling in terms of grisly, lingering shots of torn body parts but lacks the narrative to hold your attention throughout, revealing all its cards at an early stage.
De Van, who does a better job than most of juggling writing, directing and acting duties, still spends too much time patting herself on the back, hardly allowing any other character to develop and leading the audience by the hand throughout; despite the film demanding that the viewer think about why Esther could possibly be acting in such a bizarre way, you are left either thinking the obvious (alienated by the dull plasticity of middle-class life and the apathy of her friends and family and needing to ‘love’ herself), or not caring at all, which barely leaves the film better than an autopsy video.
As a metaphor, it really drags, though as a showcase for special effects and make-up artist, Dominique Colladant (Nosferatu the Vampyre, Frankenstein 90) it’s hide behind the cushion stuff, gruesomely effective and sadistic, though by the end of the film you’re pretty much immune, which was surely not the intention. In My Skin is challenging yet ultimately hollow and too self-congratulatory.
Daz Lawrence, HORRORPEDIA