Monday, May 4, 2009

SFIFF: Can Go Through Skin

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

The theater was packed during Saturday's SFIFF showing of the Dutch film "Can Go Through Skin," but one wonders if the theater would have been as full if the audience has expected such a difficult film.

The story focuses on an Amsterdam woman named Marieke. While dealing with the emotional toll of a break-up, she is attacked in her home. She decides to escape the city and its violence by moving to a rundown house in the countryside. But she soon learns it's a lot easier to escape a city than it is to escape your own troubled psyche.

The film is fragmentary and at times impressionistic, illustrating Maireke's paranoid and vengeful head space. It is difficult to know what is real, and what is merely going in in Maireke's mind, and this jagged storytelling would be very hard to sit through were it not for the amazing performance of Rifka Lodeizen as Marieke. She's astounding. Let's hope she can break out of her native Holland and find some roles in more international releases. Also impressive is the film's sound design and music, both done by Dan Geesin. Much of the film's moodiness and mystery depends on the soundtrack, since there are large parts that are dialogue free.

Director Esther Rots spoke briefly after the film and answered a few questions. She revealed that when she started the movie, she didn't have a complete story in place; she started with one idea and then branched off into other directions as the filming progressed, which explains a lot about the movie's disjointed feel. It is definitely not a conventionally told tale. Some questions from the audience focused on plot points, in an attempt to get some clarity, but Rots said that she prefers the viewers to fill in any blanks they see in the film with their own stories. Which either seems like way of pointing out that all art requires the viewer to project a bit of themselves onto what they are viewing, or just a veiled admission that she didn't have the answers.