Can Go Through Skin

Can Go Through Skin


Reviewed by: Sarah Artt

The Dutch occasionally surprise us with these harrowing films that tend to undermine how the rest of Europe perceives them. Esther Rois's offering at this year's EIFF is no exception. Into the clean, white townhouse flat conversions that populate the desirable areas of Amsterdam, comes the trauma of an horrifying experience.

Marieke (Lodeizen), has just split up with her boyfriend and is drowning her sorrows in red wine and pizza when she is brutally attacked in her own home. Fleeing the site of this experience, she buys a derelict farmhouse in Zeeland, the countryside outside Amsterdam, and begins a substantial renovation project.

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At first, we are gratified to see how capable she is: stripping away plywood, chopping wood, fixing locks and even rigging up a shower. Only when we see her hacking away at a wooden beam and chasing off her neighbour's dog with an axe do we realise she has yet to fully come to terms with what has happened. She seeks solace in an online community of rape victims and begins to develop a friendship with one of the more extreme proponents, who urges Marieke to take revenge. When she unearths an old shotgun during her house renovations, Marieke develops an active and elaborate revenge fantasy.

The sense of claustrophobia and the panic attacks that Marieke continues to experience are realistically conveyed through the film's excellent sound design, which amplifies the slightest noise as Marieke begins to imagine that someone is trying to break into her house. Despite her paranoia, Marieke begins to develop a relationship with her neighbour John (Opbrouck) when he offers to help her with the more complicated plumbing and electrical repairs needed on her house. Marieke seems to go back and forth between capably getting on with her project, determined to move past what has happened and suddenly finding herself cowering in the crawl space above her kitchen cupboard, or fantasising that she has shot her attacker with a hunting rifle.

This is a film likely to divide viewers, as I myself was divided after seeing it. In many ways, this is a brutal and uncompromising film with honest and deeply felt performances from its two leads. On the other hand, I found myself leaving the cinema angry and dissatisfied with where the narrative leaves off and how Marieke descends into hysteria - a hysteria which is seemingly corrected by tradition. See it for yourself and decide.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2009
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A woman responds to assault by moving to the countryside and reconstructing an old farmhouse, but her sanity proves fragile.
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Director: Esther Rots

Writer: Esther Rots

Starring: Rifka Lodeizen, Wim Opbrouck, Chris Borowski

Year: 2009

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: Netherlands


BIFF 2009
EIFF 2009

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