Monday, 16 November 2009

LEEDS FILM FEST REVIEW: Can Go Through Skin


I missed the first couple of minutes of Can Go Through Skin, and considering that’s when the BIG EVENT happens I missed the lead up to it so was a little bit confused about the circumstances. I’m not sure that extra insight would have helped actually, because the film itself is quite confusing and it’s hard to tell what is actually happening, what is a flashback, what is a fantasy and what is a dream. The director has really mastered the ability to trick the audience, and thus she puts the main character (Marieke) through the ringer and then some.

Recovering from the nasty events at the beginning of the film, Marieke moves to a dilapidated farm-house in the Dutch countryside to try and get over her trauma. The bleak loneliness of her surroundings (very akin to the Yorky Moors I thought) and the recurring memories of the events send her into a disturbing pattern of behaviour, showcasing almost a split personality at times – she is friendly to her neighbour, she yells at him to leave her alone, she welcomes his offer to mend her drain, she then hides from him when he knocks at the door (poor bloke must have thought she was barmy!). Meanwhile she tries to find solace in chat rooms on the internet, and strikes up a ‘friendship’ with one user who preys upon her weak state of mind and tells her to take revenge on her attacker. Marieke is already having fantasies about locking up and torturing her assailant, and this only feeds the fuel of her desire – but to make it a reality. Simultaneous to this, ‘happy’ Marieke becomes friendlier with her neighbour and sleeps with him one night, resulting in a pregnancy.

I was confused by events towards the end of the film, as it seems to rely heavily on flashback and plans to meet up with the chat-room user to plan out and take revenge on her attacker. I’m not sure whether this actually took place or whether it was all happening in her head – I started to question the time line of the whole film and it all got a bit crazy! It didn’t make me want to throw up my hands in despair however, and storm out of the cinema. It’s intelligent storytelling rather than messy, and it has all the makings of one of those films you need to watch several times before you begin to appreciate the real depth and complexity of the plot.

The central performance of Marieke is a raw and unyielding spectacle for any hard-nosed viewer. The actress who plays her is throughly amazing at being able to convey all the emotions, all the stages that a victim of an attack goes through with such force and authenticity. Give this girl an Oscar! And what else was brilliant was the inventive and original film making, particularly use of sound and background audio – it was extremely effective at creating suspense in a scene, or helping us understand the turmoil raging inside Marieke’s head – it was especially good during the court room scene where the situation presses in on her and she just has to get out for some air. And the theme of water throughout the film was expertly used as well – the film ends with an almost identical scene to one at the beginning, but this time with a very different connotation. It was really well done.

A taut and complex Dutch thriller from a really exciting director, boasting a stunning performance from its lead actress. Hopefully lots more people will get to see it and admire what it exudes. Another call from me for wider distribution, please! Oh, and more reviews online so I can find out exactly what was going on nearer the end…

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