In My Skin
One of the few times I’ve had to cringe while watching a movie, and not because it was so terrible, was while watching the DVD of In My Skin. Ostensibly about a woman who becomes so fascinated with a very nasty accidental wound on her leg that she can hardly think about anything else, her fascination then spreads to other parts of her body. The women, writer/director Marina de Van, digs at her skin with knives, glass, and anything else she can find that is sharp. It’s hard enough to watch someone get punctured in a movie, but when they are doing it to themselves, and we have to watch them dig at their skin accompanied by truly horrific sound effects, it becomes a little hard to take.
There’s one brilliant scene at a restaurant, where she gets concerned that her arm has detached itself, half on the table and only a stub remaining. So in order to snap back into (her) reality, she begins digging at her arm with a steak knife, all of this during a business dinner.
When she starts saving her own bits of flesh and then chewing and sucking on them, it becomes obvious that this is a vampire story, only she craves her own blood, which I guess would be self-cannibalistic vampirism. There’s also the undeveloped theme of the feminine idea of how they physically see themselves in society, never content. Van digs at herself with such fervor because she’s ashamed of how she looks, and the best way to hide her hideousness (other than her Fairuza Balk teeth and face, minus the charm, she has an amazing body) is by tearing away the outer layer.
Van makes an interesting choice by having the numerous scenes that take place in the office setting to be completely uninteresting, never allowing us an in to care about what they are talking about, it’s just vague business speak, which draws us more into her predicament, if you can call it that, and ignore the outside factors. In a way, it is a bit one dimensional (all the reviews have cited its similarity to a David Cronenberg film, but he would have “dug” deeper into the issues), and there really is no ending. The movie just kind of stops when she runs out of variations of trying to rip into her body. There are some witty things involving her boyfriend and how she tries to explain how she keeps cutting herself, and I’m quite glad they didn’t resort to having someone call the police and report him for beating her.
All in all, it’s worth seeing for the experience, though I don’t have the urge to see it again, and you should certainly not eat before, during, or directly after. You may feel the need to stop, following the particularly brutal scenes, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a break. At the same time, I feel that there is a certain cheapness to the whole affair.
George Lucas once said that getting an audience emotionally involved is easy. Show them a kitten. Then show a pair of hands. Then show the hands strangling the kitten, and they are immediately sucked in and horrified. The same goes for general phobias like needles and nasty and tearing cuts on our own skin, let alone when we have to watch someone intentionally inflict it upon themselves. It’s more of a shame that Van didn’t do much more with a great subject, rather than settling for shock value.