Friday, October 14, 2011

Horrorthon 3: Day Thirteen: In My Skin (Marina De Van, 2002) -- B-

In My Skin begins with various split-screen shots, the right screen reflecting the negative image of that on the left, an obvious but useful evocation of subjective division, something director Marina De Van's convincing foray into body-horror acutely, if ultimately underwhelmingly, deals with. Esther's (also Marina De Van) bourgeois status is readily apparent; she has a nice job with a marketing firm, loving boyfriend Vincent (Laurent Lucas), and a group of supportive friends. All of this stability becomes an issue when Esther gashes her leg at a party, becomes fascinated with her torn flesh, and transitions into systematic self-mutilation, cutting and knifing herself, at times for real, others imagined (a dinner scene is especially notable). De Van explicitly links these acts with Esther's ennui and detachment from feeling, which her "life of comfort" does not facilitate. Moreover, every character around her is less concerned with Esther's health than their own vanity/self-preservation; the boyfriend wonders aloud what's wrong with him, as to make her behave this way; her boss threatens to "cut her loose" after an unprofessional display; the only real concern comes from best friend Sandrine (Lea Drucker), but even she holds a grudge for Esther's upward mobility within the company. Metaphors of suffocation abound; the growing division between self (the flesh) and other (the constructed business woman) leads Esther to literal self-cannibalism. In My Skin isn't nearly as provocative as, say Denis's Trouble Every Day, but it is more precise and convincing than something like Black Swan - bubble-gum hysteria if there ever was. De Van's ends aren't very compelling (she seems uncertain on where to go next), but when Esther's bodily obsessions and mutilations take shape, few horror films have the ability to make you squirm quite like this one.

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