Skin of Man, Heart of Beast

"Bad"

Skin of Man, Heart of Beast Review


Upon departing the screening of Helene Angel's Skin of Man, Heart of Beast, I was left with a stupefying mental puzzle filled with jagged pieces of plot and dialogue that did not quite fit together in any coherent manner. While the film is linear in the traditional sense, free of time warps and flashbacks, the imagery and symbolism cause one to wonder about its underlying message. Is it a criticism of the brutal treatment of women in rural French society? Or is it a story of conquest about two innocent young girls able to overcome a sadly dysfunctional family situation? Because of the film's ambiguity, I'll discuss only those pieces of the puzzle that are concrete enough to judge and explain.

Serge Riaboukine and Barnard Blancan represent the titular "beasts." They are two brothers that not only appear strikingly beastly on the outside, but also have rapacious souls, which they nourish through the abuse of women. Riaboukine plays Franky, an alcoholic city cop who is forced to give up his badge after savagely beating a prostitute while in a drunken stupor. He retreats to the family farm with his mother (Maaike Jansen), teenage brother (Pascal Cervo), and two daughters. There he reunites with his boyhood community and is warmly welcomed by his family, friends, and not surprisingly, sleazy underworld connections. Ironically, he is gentle and loving around his two girls, especially the baby, five-year-old Aurelie (Cathy Hinderchild), whose character is meant to symbolize purity, as she exists in an overly optimistic world of fairies and fantasy. At night when he steps way from his family, however, Franky is a gluttonous savage of a man who parties, drinks, and womanizes with reckless abandon.

Coincidentally, the day after Franky arrives on the farm, his estranged second brother Coco (Serge Riaboukine) also suddenly returns home after 15 years. Coco is mysterious from the start. Eerily silent, he claims to have been a Legionnaire, but we are left wondering whether or not that explanation is a lie to cover up years of imprisonment? There are also allusions to Coco's homosexuality, as he rants about a mysterious friend named Ronnie and won't touch any of the local women that inexplicably fawn over him. He undeniably has some dark secrets and after he watches his older brother in the midst of the neighborhood nightlife bullying and abusing the opposite sex, the stage is set for Coco's unraveling, as he begins to act in the same manner.

Narrated by one of the young daughters looking back as an older woman, the film uses the children's reflections of their dreams to explain the torment their father and uncle create. At one point, the older teenage sister Christelle (Virginie Guinand) tries to warn her younger sister, who mysteriously has taken a liking to Coco, by explaining her nightmare in which Coco has chopped up their bodies and served them for dinner. The film then flashes to a dream sequence with the three adults eating ravenously until the grandmother and Frankie realize they are eating the two girls. Exasperated, they begin to spew blood from their mouths and flail about with shame, while Coco, on the other hand, continues to eat unperturbed. Despite its gore, the scene exemplifies the vulnerability of the two young girls and their feelings of isolation from their family as they deal with the surrounding influences of malevolence.

Coco's eventual demise serves as a wakeup call to Frankie, but is it too late to save his family? Skin of Man, Heart of Beast leaves that up for the audience to decide, while never explaining the mysterious questions of Coco's past, merely offering more perplexing dreams for figurative interpretation. With so many loose ends, the puzzle becomes nearly impossible to solve.

What is redeeming about the film are the two girls, whose ability to handle such a disheartening situation is courageous. Unfortunately, the darker elements of misogyny and unprovoked violence suffocate the illumination created by the two daughters and the sparse instances of humor meant to shine through the gloomy film noir veil.

Aka Peau d'homme coeur de bête.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 15th December 1999

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 6.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.