UK / 11 minutes / color / LFS, Fruit Tree Media, Cungkeel Dir: Ben Aston Pr: Fiona Lamptey Scr: Maria Hummer, Ben Aston Story: “He Took His Skin Off for Me” (2013 Devil’s Lake) by Maria Hummer Cine: Yiannis Manolopoulos Cast: Sebastian Armesto, Anna Maguire, Oli Fenton, Sarah Barker, Danyèle Seignoret, Stuart Thompson, Gary “Stretch” Turner, Olivia Furber.
A beautifully executed, visually vivid short whose affect is hard to forget, perhaps because of the juxtaposition of the tranquility of the narration (by Maguire) with the images on screen—not that those are violent or graphic in any way (far from it) but simply because we tend to recoil at the sight of the skinned man. This instinctive reaction is foregrounded early on when we’re presented with the sight of another piece of stripped flesh, a slab of lamb that’s being thrown onto the griddle for supper. It’s enough to make one a vegetarian (if one isn’t already).
The movie’s premise is simple. At the request of his girlfriend (Maguire), a man (Armesto) strips off his skin so that hereafter she can see him in his entirety: “I could see everything. He was beautiful,” she breathes in the voiceover.
There are practical problems to his new, skinless state. The load of housework is greatly increased, as he leaves bloody smears wherever he goes and his clothes and the bedsheets need constant washing. More important, perhaps, while friends are accepting of the new him, at work he’s losing clients right, left and center, so the financial future looks precarious for the couple. But their love is deeper, closer than ever before . . . we hope. Sometimes he does look rueful.
There’s a lot more about the movie and its making at its official website. I was particularly interested to learn that none of the effects were achieved by CGI: the skinless man was created using prosthetic makeup. This involved greater expertise than the student creators initially possessed. However, they
“began by reaching out to Colin Arthur (NeverEnding Story, 2001: A Space Odyssey) and with his help and guidance built our own independent team of sculptors, makeup artists and SFX newbies to make a man appear to have no skin. . . . The team spent over 8 weeks creating hundreds of individual muscle pieces specifically crafted for Sebastian’s body.”
You can read the short story upon which the movie was based here. Alternatively, at the movie’s website you can watch/listen to author Maria Hummer reading it herself. (I grinned in sympathy as she got her own title wrong. Been there, done that.)
As good a place as any to watch the movie itself is here.