A woman suffers the horrific double-whammy of being dumped by her boyfriend and then being raped and almost drowned by a pizza deliveryman at the outset of Can Go Through Skin, which proceeds to rigorously track the victim, Marieke (Rifka Lodeizen), as she copes with her circumstances by moving to a run-down country house. Dutch director Esther Rots keeps her gaze trained on Marieke at virtually all times, often in close-up, the intended effect being to infiltrate her wounded headspace. For a time, it’s a fruitful strategy, as the highly subjective camera’s intimate proximity to Marieke amplifies Lodeizen’s unflinching performance, which, without the aid of considerable dialogue, captures the unhinged, paranoid fracturing of her protagonist’s psyche. Marieke’s sanity is dangerously teetering on the precipice, and the film’s greatest strength lies in its willingness to let Lodeizen explore, within scenes, the variety of thoughts and emotions (fear, mistrust, mania, hurt) vying to guide her actions. Nonetheless, despite her images’ vivid tactility—the chill of a rural Holland morning, the pleasurable feeling of goose-bumped skin entering a hot bathtub—Rots seems unwilling to fully trust her material. A self-conscious score—in which delicate pianos are melded to industrial clinks and clanks, as well as roaring train screeches—too strongly emphasizes Marieke’s disorientation, just as the director’s raft of metaphors, like the changing of the seasons and the renovation of the country house, speak too bluntly to the character’s attempts at rehabilitation. A romantic relationship with neighbor John (Wim Opbrouck) more gracefully allows the story to move from areas of pain to those of healing, a journey that concludes with wrenching bookending symmetry. Yet along the way to its recuperation finale, Can Go Through Skin awkwardly blends reality with Marieke’s vengeance-driven fantasies and potentially unreal activities on rape-victim Internet forums and mysterious trips to Amsterdam. These last three plot detours aim to convey her damaged, delusional mental turmoil, but frequently prove just baffling, the film’s real-imaginary ambiguousness eventually coming off, in light of the otherwise quite straightforward narrative arc, as excessive affectation.
- 97 min
- Esther Rots
- Esther Rots
- Rifka Lodeizen, Wim Opbrouck, Chris Borowski
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