Fantasia 2023: Our Review of ‘Skin Deep’

Posted in Fantasia 2023, Festival Coverage, Movies by - August 03, 2023
Fantasia 2023: Our Review of ‘Skin Deep’

There’s a moment in David Fincher’s Fight Club where Edward Norton’s Narrator character sneers at a shirtless model on a Calvin Klein bus ad. “Is that what a real man looks like” he jestfully questions. It’s a moment that’s stuck with me. For all of its loud masculinity, Fight Club is one of the few films to actually ask what body dysmorphia—and specifically male body dysmorphia—means.

Skin Deep is another film that seeks to consider the same topics. Leyla (Mala Emde) is hurting. Injuries have rendered her career as a dancer inert. She can’t answer the questions posed by other regarding who she is, and what she likes to do. The reality is her body cannot do what it needs to do and it hampers everything she likes. In one shot we see the self-harm scars on her arm, suggesting an immense depression sprung on by her loss.

It’s a perspective that her partner Tristan (Jonas Dassler) should be more familiar with. He’s solipsistically not. This shifts when someone offers them a chance at body swapping with another couple. Leyla loves the shift; Tristan does not. When he aborts the swap, it causes a rift between the two that they must mend.

Skin Deep is a text that probably should be read though a queer lens. The film’s understanding of the dysmorphia is so strong, it’s impressive. Director Alex Schaad’s use of lighting and camera movement eloquently places yourself in Leyla’s world. To experience her euphoria, and then the subsequent possibility that it might dissipate, is tremendously overwhelming due to the nature of how Schaad forces her perspective. This doesn’t always work, and its metaphors be might a touch clunky, but when Skin Deep gets into the headspace of its characters, it becomes a real emotional ride.

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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