Eye For Film >> Movies >> Skhizein (2008) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
From Henri's perspective, it would seem that he has been struck by a meteorite. But Henri's perspective is not where it should be.
Rarely does cinema speak in the first person, and rarely is it so effective when doing so. Shot entirely from Henri's perspective, this beautifully rendered animation sees him precisely 91cm from where he should be - that is, the place where he can physically interact with the world is 91cm to the side of where he perceives himself to be, which he explains to a bored-looking psychiatrist whilst lying 91cm to the side of the psychiatrist's couch, in mid air. "We'll go back to the asteroid next time," says the psychiatrist, and Henri, frustrated, attempts to explain the difference between an asteroid and a meteorite. It's clear that this man has no understanding of his situation.
Most people have no idea what it's like to be schizophrenic, and by taking one of the illness' most striking (though not universal) symptoms, the dissonance between perception and self at a physical level, Jérémy Clapin has created a touching story that lets us right inside his hero's striking experience (of course Henri might really have been struck by a meteorite, but that uncertainty is part of his anguish). It also serves as a metaphor for all the other distancing effects of mental illness.
Henri isn't crazy as we might usually understand it. He's perfectly rational in trying to cope with his disordered circumstances, his concerns are real and his determination to solve his problems for himself is something every viewer will admire. But he is also slipping further and further out of touch with everybody else. Can he keep his job? Can he stay in contact with his mother? These are the day to day struggles of life with schizophrenia, and Clapin brings them into sharp relief.
Complementing this is the palette of the film, which uses soft edges, gradually encroaching darkness, lines of chalk and the gradual intrusion of disordered shapes in a way that mimics the hallucinatory symptoms often described by sufferers of the disease. Ordinary objects just slightly out of alignment hint at the approaching chaos. Julien Boisselier's melancholy yet matter-of-fact narration effortlessly absorbs the viewer, carrying us along on this strange journey.
Rarely has such an important, educational film been so fascinating to watch.Reviewed on: 10 Feb 2010