A minimalist study of self-harming, In My Skin raises troubling questions about our relationship with the flesh. After accidentally gashing her leg open in a fall, upwardly mobile marketing analyst Esther (Marina De Van) embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she pricks, slashes, cuts, and bites her body in an eager attempt to discover what lies beneath her skin. Gruelling, horrific, and most definitely not for those of a squeamish disposition, this takes body horror to a whole new level.
Poised somewhere in the cut between a kitchen sink docudrama about self-harming and a haemoglobin-heavy horror flick, In My Skin is a decidedly curious film that often feels more like an endurance test than an insightful drama. Offering blood-soaked close-ups of gaping wounds as they're prodded and poked, writer-director and star Marina De Van captures both the horror and the beauty of the flesh, playing up the sensuality of her heroine as she literally rolls in her own blood.
"SADOMASOCHISTIC, CANNIBALISTIC, AUTOEROTIC"
"Don't you like your body?" asks Esther's boyfriend (Laurent Lucas), worried about the cuts that she's mysteriously accumulating. It's a facile response to the complexity of Esther's self-abuse. Rather than hating her own body, Esther's slowly falls in love with it. Admittedly it's a sadomasochistic, cannibalistic, autoerotic kind of love that involves slashing herself with steak knives and assorted sharp objects, but it's still love.
Offering no clear justification for her heroine's actions, De Van avoids trite pop psychology and instead stares, unblinkingly, at this woman's obsession with her body and the way in which self-harming becomes a release, a pleasure, and a means of self-control. She's an apparently successful, happy, resourceful woman, yet she insists on harming herself. Letting us crawl inside Esther's skin more often than her head, De Van's alarming feature is laced with frustrations yet it carries a sense of physical desolation that's quite unforgettable.
In French with English subtitles.