DANS MA PEAU (IN MY SKIN) comes from writer-director-star Marina de Van. She has a high forehead and big pale eyes set in an oval face; she is both funny looking and gorgeous.
SKIN turns on what happens when Esther (de Van) goes to a party. She – feeling claustrophobic? – wanders in the back yard. In the darkness, she steps through an obstacle course of scrap metal, when she trips and falls. She doesn’t realize she’s injured until hours later, when she sees the blood trailing from her leg. Her doctor is puzzled how she walked around with such a big gash without feeling a thing, and it is odd. But Esther, stuck in a corporate job and ambivalent about buying a house with her boyfriend, does want to feel something – but what?
Her skin, her self – that’s what. She obsesses at her original wound; she digs at it as if scratching a violent itch; and when that itch is sated, she cuts herself another and another. And somehow, it seems more reward than punishment. She enjoys – thrills in – the sensation, the release, as if she’s letting herself out of a cage that happens to be her own body. She cuts, and she cuts. She gets drunk at a business dinner, then checks herself into a hotel and has her way with herself, slicing herself and hungrily drinking her blood.
It’s disturbing to watch, yet it’s also abstract. You see her hand make a cutting motion, but the cut flesh is hidden by the camera angle – her body obstructing the camera’s gaze. You see her expressive face wince and grimace, then fall into an ecstasy that’s wonderful to her, and which might seem wonderful to us if it weren’t accompanied by blood. You see lots of blood, and the resulting scars, but you aren’t always sure what part of the body you’re looking at, especially in a brilliant split-screen view of her cannibal masturbation. Perhaps Esther is deranged. But she has a look on her face of such satisfaction, a satisfaction that only she can give herself.