THE STORY – A cut-off hand escapes from a dissection lab with one crucial goal: to get back to its body. As it scrambles through the pitfalls of Paris, it remembers its life with the young man it was once attached to, until they met Gabrielle.
THE CAST – Hakim Faris, Victoire du Bois & Patrick d’Assumçao
THE TEAM – Jérémy Clapin (Director/Writer) & Guillaume Laurant (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 81 Minutes
By Daniel Howat
A severed hand crawls around Paris in search of its owner. That’s not a plot description that sounds like it’ll be a love story full of melancholy and whimsy, but that’s exactly what this is. Directed by Jérémy Clapin, “I Lost My Body” is a gorgeously animated French film that follows Naoufel (Hakim Faris), a young man who’s been through a lot. So has his hand.
We see Naoufel at three different points in his life. For the majority of the film, he’s a twenty-something struggling to figure out his life and falling in love. He’s a chronically late pizza delivery man sharing a crappy room with a terrible roommate. Naoufel is trying to put the pieces of his life back together. As he listens to tape recordings from when he was a child, we start to see glimpses of his younger days. And of course, we see Naoufel’s hand in the present day, trying to find the rest of him. Just like his hand, we’re starting to piece together Naoufel’s life through these time periods.
The animation is stunning. Full of shadows and darkness, the film uses light like a noir, creating a strong mood that pervades every scene. Because much of the film follows Naoufel’s hand, it gives the audience a truly unique perspective; not only the perspective of the hand walking through the city streets, hiding from passersby and combating ants and rodents, but also the hand’s perspective when it was still attached. Close-ups show this almost tactile memory for Naoufel, living out memories through the things that the hand interacted with. Thanks to the brilliant animation, it’s vivid and captivating. It’s also surprising. One scene, in particular, sees the hand on a rooftop as a pigeon is trying to push it off the edge. In a shocking moment of violence, the hand grasps the pigeon by the neck, snapping it before they both fall into an alleyway. Bizarre moments like these remind us we’re not watching a Disney film.
Throughout each timeline, it’s clear that this is a story of a man searching for wholeness. Orphaned as a child, Naoufel has carried the weight of feeling incomplete ever since. A chance encounter on a late pizza delivery gives him hope of romance. He becomes infatuated with a librarian named Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois), but rather than pursue her honestly, he follows her and sort of inserts himself into her life. It’s definitely creepy but played as simply awkward within the film. This entire storyline is sweet to be sure, but it’s something we’ve seen dozens of times. This overly familiar storyline doesn’t capture our emotions as much as it should, leaving us longing for more of the hand’s journey.
The visual storytelling here is on another level, particularly as the hand crawls through Paris. Without dialogue, this film is able to convey so much emotion. Heartbreak and loneliness have plagued Naoufel all these years. Cutting between the recordings that Naoufel made as a child, and the way it affects him as a young man listening, makes for some truly moving moments. He has lost so much but captures mundane moments to keep their memories alive.
There’s no denying the oddness of “I Lost My Body.” Writer-director Clapin, along with co-writer Guillaume Laurant, create a very strange film, taking full advantage of the medium of animation. There’s death, there’s blood, there’s amputation, but it’s never gross. Rather than macabre, this story of a severed hand is a touching journey for human connection. Though much of this film may feel familiar, the distinct point of view makes for an otherworldly view of trauma and healing.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Stunning animation and a unique perspective keep the audience locked in. The melancholic story and search for wholeness work well.
THE BAD – When we’re not hanging out with, um, the severed hand, the rest of the story feels like something we’ve seen plenty of times before.
THE FINAL SCORE – 7/10