FILM REVIEW: I LOST MY BODY
Jérémy Clapin’s I Lost My Body (J’ai Perdu Mon Corps) excellently encapsulates the wholeness of each individual through its careful dissection of a fictional young man.
The story of I Lost My Body is simple enough, although takes a while to piece together. There are two sides to this tale. The first revolves around a pizza-delivery boy named Naoufel, who struggles with his work, his friends, and generally finding his place in life. One day on a delivery, he forms a connection with a librarian named Gabrielle on the intercom and uses stalker-like tendencies to find her. The second plot line revolves around a severed hand, which travels around Paris to find its body. These two parallel plot lines eventually intersect, but seem dismembered at first.
Although the hand never speaks or reveals any visual emotional cues, the viewer gradually gets a sense of who the hand is. This is communicated through the way the hand navigates obstacles like ongoing traffic, subway rats, and humans who would jump at the sight of a wandering hand. The film excels at building tension around the hand’s journey, no matter how indestructible this body part seems. A particularly powerful scene is one where the hand clings on tightly to a floating umbrella and the animation pans in a 360º slow motion shot of the night sky, revealing to the viewer beauty in the hand’s journey, despite moments of turmoil. The hand, although part of a larger body, comes to life as an individual trying to navigate its way back home.
Similarly, the film is able to piece together a complete picture of each of its characters, even if the characters themselves are dismembered, both physically and emotionally. Towards the beginning of the film, Naoufel is just a disheartened, struggling pizza boy. However, slowly, the film reveals elements of Naoufel’s past, his self-destructive tendencies, and how he acts when left alone. Through carefully crafting an image of Naoufel through showing his most vulnerable moments, the film builds a character who the audience feels great sympathy for. I will say that one of the few qualms I had about the film was the normalization of Naoufel following and stalking Gabrielle, given that he is a deeply flawed, yet lovable animated character. However, later on, the film reveals recognition that Naoufel’s actions were inappropriate, which sort of balanced the scale for me.
Dan Levy's score for I Lost My Body heightens every aspect of this film, illuminating its animation and placing a haunting aurora around its characters. There is a scene where Naoufel, who is now an apprentice at a carpentry studio, decides to build an igloo after being inspired by picture books on the vast North Pole. “You’re the One” by S+C+A+R+R narrates this scene, carrying a hopeful tone and making the world seem vast and Naoufel’s actions, although small, greatly significant. I found myself completely entranced by this scene, as if I was in it myself. On the contrary, flashback scenes that reveal fragments of Naoufel’s past are paired with minor-toned pieces. In particular, when Naoufel is shifting through old cassette tapes, classical piano music carries from a preceding scene, which follows the hand’s storyline. The piano music not only ties these two separate scenes together, but also marinates feelings of nostalgia and timelessness onto Naoufel’s exploration into his childhood. As someone who grew up playing classical piano, I found this pairing to be deeply moving.
When the credits started rolling after the film’s finale, I asked myself, why a severed hand? Why I Lost My Body and not I Lost My Hand? There will be many conclusions of the film’s thesis, which ties together the dismemberment of the physical, the soul, and the consciousness. However, I believe that that amongst these elements, the film best emphasizes the notion that trauma and experiences live in the body. The body, although a physical shell of the soul, also carries an individual’s spiritual weight. When exploring Naoufel’s past, we recognize his trauma and the way it embodies, but does not define, the person he is now. It is no coincidence that the hand, which the film shows has a life of its own, also carries the personality of its former owner with it. While the loss of the hand is also the loss of the body, it is not necessarily the loss of self. Unlike Naoufel's wooden igloo, a body is not a hollow shell; it carries with it the conglomerate of an individual’s trauma, experiences, and spiritual self, even if that individual happens to be an animated character in a tale of infinite longing and discovery.