first published in
Diegesis CUT TO [skin] #7 (March 2014), pp. 38-41
The Boy Who Wanted to be a Lion
Alois de Leo / UK / 2010 / 9 minutes
by MIROLYUBA SIRENKO
Being different is hard. So what could possibly go wrong when a small misunderstood boy embarks on the adventure of becoming a lion in order to feel better in his own skin? Max (Harry Boyd-Walker), a deaf child who feels disconnected from the world surrounding him, finds an alternative to his solitary existence during a school visit to the zoo. The almighty lion which terrifies all the children with his ferocious roar, fascinates our hero, who decides he wants to be just like him. However, such innocent play can lead to an unpredictable end. Alois De Leo’s thought-provoking animated short makes us contemplate the problem of what it feels like to be isolated from your own reality in a quest for an identity that makes you feel at peace. Reminiscent of the Native American tradition of transforming into your inner animal, our protagonist sheds old skin and starts a new life in the body of a lion. He eats, sleeps and even moves as a lion until his transformation appears complete with a body that cannot be told apart from the lion’s. For a moment even the actual lion is deceived by Max’s metaphorical immersion into the skin, mentality and demeanour of a lion. The film shows us that losing yourself completely in the hide of someone you are not, despite the inner comfort it might bring you, can be a perilous and sometimes lethal delusion. This beautiful animated short is carefully managed to leave us woeful, experiencing the desolation of those living unnoticed among us.
Stephen Keep Mills / USA / 2008 / 14 minutes
by KATIE SOHATSKI
Liminal is not currently available to watch online
Does Liminal focus on a psychological battle over one person’s consciousness, or is the reality of this narrative the fight between two women Joy (Tonya Cornelisse) and Ina (Alejandra Gollas) and their relationship? This short film asks us to decide whether there really are two characters in conflict or is it just one schizophrenic mind. The most significant aspect of director Stephen Keep
Mills’ film is using nudity as a symbolic gesture to strip the characters back completely. They are vulnerable with nothing to hide behind and left to portray raw emotion. When the conflict turns violent, audiences will be left even more on edge, as the characters are physically exposed and defenceless. The nudity also heightens the authenticity of the relationship between both bodies; the characters are occasionally comfortable around each other, communicating through often vague dialogue that gives the impression that the couple are building on a previous conflict earlier in their relationship. At the same time, this can be seen as one woman, her body and the powerful, damaging voice that controls her. Whether two characters or one conscience, Stephen Keep Mills presents to us a weakness, vulnerability and conflict that centres on the body and the attempt to regain control of it.
Dame Factory Inc.
Melanie Abramov / USA / 2011 / 8 minutes
by HANNAH LAW
Watch Dame Factory Inc.
Watching Melanie Abramov’s Dame Factory Inc. may leave you both intrigued and disgusted. This artfully captured short film explores the way in which women use their bodies as commodities and are able to adapt to the world around them even when simply putting a meal on the table, all the while keeping up appearances, of course. The film delves into ideas of the beautiful versus the grotesque as the film’s women are presented in lingerie, posing provocatively and exposing their bodies for the audience to linger over. Usually when women are portrayed in this way we see it as sexual and often arousing. However, the women in this film use their bodies as factories to process food. One women is shown to us thrusting and pulsating on a bed and then passing vodka through her lips, while another of the girls opens her legs suggestively and instead of seeing what is expected to be seen, the audience will be surprised to see a meat grinder that then begins to churn out mince. Dame Factory Inc. surpasses the expectations of a voyeuristic audience and turns the show of skin and provocative movement from something sexual and arousing into something that is uncomfortable, challenging and repulsive in this new context.
Michael Kinirons / Ireland / 2009 / 21 minutes
by ALICE STANSFIELD
Watch Lowland Fell
Human curiosity can drive every decision, outcome and eventual narrative. Directed by Michael Kinirons, Lowland Fell looks at the exploration of others through curiosity. The 20-minute short focuses on a teenage girl Lowland (Jane McGrath), who meets two brothers Mark (Robert Sheehan) and John (Michael Winder), who stumble upon a mummified body, preserved in peat bogland. When returning home with the body in tow, the three begin to explore each other whilst seemingly being watched by the dead. This quietly tense thriller conjures up various enigmatic moments leaving you curious as to where the story is going. Towards the end of the film, the characters are sitting indoors by the fireside, touching and discovering each other through carefully constructed close-up shots in low key lighting, silently admiring each other’s skin. The film’s centrepiece is the preserved body of the dead figure, shot through a carefully chosen range of angles so as to not fully reveal it, only referring to it as “him” and “weird looking”. The score is somewhat tribal as the tension escalates, after the girl announces the body was strangled in a cult ritual. The body is blackened and crippled by time compared to the sensuousness of the living, showing the nature of skin when cared for or abused. Lowland Fell shows us how a reminder of the dead can make us want to feel alive, explore life and each other, even if in a rather disturbing way.
Andre Andreev & Dan Covert / USA / 2013 / 6 minutes
by SOPHIE WRIGHT
Watch Farrah GFE
“My name is Farrah and I work as an escort”. Farrah GFE is a captivating short documentary film about the life of an escort operating under a pseudonym inspired by MTV’s Teen Mom reality series. The five-minute film takes us through her day-to-day activities and how she defines her controversial job. The film is based in New York, which is often dubbed the “city of dreams”, however from the initial wide shot of the run-down and desolate side of town, we are shown an entirely different side to the dream. Farrah’s full features are never shown, but only portrayed through the occasional close-up of skin, body features or the back of her head. Such a focus reflects the nature of her secretive career and identity, allowing a sense of empathy to develop for a girl who is known and yet remains anonymous and can never be completely honest with those she loves. Her character is made relatable by the ongoing voiceover, in which she details her childhood activities, meeting with friends and spending time perfecting her nails. The tone of the voiceover becomes monotonous when combined with her referring to “Farrah” in the third person. As a result we are left to note the extent to which she sees what she does as mundane work under another identity and nothing else. This emphasises the pressure of her highly secretive life and highlights the controversial topic of using her body for money. One pivotal moment is when Farrah is shown in silhouette describing how she thinks she’ll simply paint her nails while she is working. This point within the film highlights how a girl who moved to New York has exchanged her dreams in selling her body and lost her innocence to survive.
Omar Hauksson / Iceland / 2012 / 11 minutes
by CHLOE GEORGE
Watch Undying Love
Icelandic writer and director Omar Hauksson’s Undying Love intertwines the pursuit and protection of love and survival during a man’s apocalyptic quest. The audience follows the protagonist as he strives for survival in a city swarming with the undead, before seemingly rescuing another survivor from attack, hiding his ulterior motives. Avoiding the generic overload of gore in zombie movies, Hauksson employs high-key lighting in flashback moments of tenderness along with somber musical tones to create an intimate quality. To offer up a fellow human’s skin and body as a gift of nutrition, while the human is still alive shows a cannibalism that thrives on the twisted good nature of loved ones. Just as the clichéd title presents a kind of romance, the offering up of an innocent stranger to another presents an idea of unconditional love that far exceeds the limits of beauty such as those presented in Disney fairytales or conventional romances. Undying Love toys with the idea of society’s fixation with keeping love alive by keeping the dead alive. As if love is bigger than human life, skin seems to be dismissed and swallowed by soul and heart in this unconventional short