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The Reflecting Skin
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The Reflecting Skin More at IMDbPro »

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57 out of 64 people found the following review useful:

Another tack on a fascinating flick

Author: shlemmy from Chicago, IL, USA
27 April 2004

I only read the most recent 12 reviews, but it seems you either really appreciate this film or you think it sucks. Apparently, some folks see art in the tragic and angst-ridden characters, and others are disgusted by their actions and the depressing imagery. Personally, my motives were not too sophisticated: I found it in the "horror" section at the video store and it looked pretty stylish and of course, Aragorn was in it, so I said what the heck. I thought the film, though disturbing, was indeed a fascinating and thought-provoking piece of cinematic art.

Anyway, I'm wondering if Philip Ridley was commenting on the narcissism, arrogance, violence, and corruption of U.S. culture. Not that others couldn't be accused of similar vices, but... I think the boy Seth and the other lead characters symbolize our national conscience. We run around blowing up frogs and tearing up peoples' property with no remorse, then create our own moral/spiritual sources to console us out of empty, dead things (like a stillborn child). We wallow in our domestic dysfunctions, while excelling at denial about them (like the nutty mother). We like a good witch hunt, accusing the depressed widow or the agonized former pedophile, while ignoring the obvious handsome suspects in the nice Caddy. We flit around wrapped in our flag thinking we're innocent, all the while nuking children in war only to focus on how their radiated skin looks like a mirror in which we can see our lovely reflections. But someone else gets the last laugh, since we're all self-destructing as a result of it all, and while at first Seth's screaming frenzy as the finale confused me, I realize now it's a fitting end to that interpretation.

Or something like that. It might just be about a bored rural kid with no conscience and a wild imagination whose failure to tell the truth ends up hurting everyone around him. Or about the price of tea in China. It's worth the view, though, if you like Gothic thrillers.

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33 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Hard to respond ...

Author: Ichiro from United States
30 May 2004

This film is certainly unique. It creates a dark and haunting atmosphere against a rural town in the 1950s. It keeps sneaking so many weird and unsettling images into its narrative that by the time the really weird stuff starts you're totally accepting of it. The film opens with a group of cruel boys inflating a hapless frog and then exploding it in the face of a woman, spattering her with blood and frog entrails. That sets the tone.

I was not in the right frame of mind for this. But I cannot utterly dismiss it either. I was taken by the filmmaker's vision, and I had to appreciate his imaginative approach to narrative. But I was expecting the violence to be a little more stylized--actually, it's quite bleak and nihilistic. This film belongs in a pantheon of indigestible films like SALO, brilliant movies to be sure, but hardly the kind of stories to tuck you in at night. This is a compliment, by the way, as SALO is one of my favorite films.

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32 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

American Gothic

Author: PaulLondon from United Kingdom
19 October 2000

British playwright, author and scriptwriter Phillip Ridley turned his hand to directing for this beautifully beguiling film about a child's view of a bewilderingly complex world. The protagonist-Seth-is confronted by the horrors of mortality when he meets the mysterious "vampire", Dolphin Blue, a lonely widow he encounters when he and his friends explode a frog in front of her. The film follows Seth through his deepening understanding of the fragility of existence.

A highly evocative and stylised tale of small town life and death set amidst swaying corn fields and clear blue skies, but, there is a foetus in the barn and death drives a black car through town... Not for all tastes, this is a poetic piece of Americana that will probably appeal to fans of David Lynch. Ridley's vision is not a cheery world view but one in which cruelty and fate stalk the innocent hand in hand. This is a beautiful and tragic piece of work and I just wish there would be a DVD release soon

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25 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

A masterpiece from the 90's

Author: Bogey Man from Finland
15 October 2002

British author and writer Philip Ridley has done very little in the field of cinema, but what there is, is more than interesting and great, especially in the case of this debut of his, Reflecting Skin (1990). The film stars Jeremy Cooper as a some 10 year old boy named Seth Dove, who lives in the rural areas of America in the 1950's, when the WWII is still very freshly in minds. Seth has friends whom he plays with like boys normally do, but it seems like they are always very cold and wicked towards each other, and that something isn't quite right. Seth's father and mother are also more than ominous and weird. Soon Seth's older brother arrives in home from WWII in which he served during the bombing of Japan. Brother Cameron is played by Viggo Mortensen, and first he and Seth seem to be very close with each other, but not for long. Also, a weird lady lives near Seth's house and the lady - despite being very attractive - is also very bizarre and threatening, and almost like a vampire in a fairy tales, which Seth's father happens to read all the time. There's no need to tell more about the plot, you've got it by this point that this film isn't going to be any optimistic and positive pack of 90 minutes entertainment. This is nearly as disturbing as possible, and has characters and settings which would make (and hopefully have made or will make) David Lynch give a huge hug to Philip.

Reflecting Skin is the kind of film a director manages to do perhaps just once during his career. It tries to reach the top which is so high, it is almost impossible to succeed or at least succeed more than once in subsequent films. Reflecting Skin - I have really come to this conclusion - really succeeds and how fantastically it does! I knew this film will be a tough and challenging one, but it was more, when I finally FINALLY managed to find it and watch it.

The film has absolutely zero likable characters or characters who can be described as good or good willing. They are all bad, others more and others less. Others may have had an opportunity not to become that way due to their young age, while others are so corrupted and rotten, they should have been 'saved' when they were still vulnerable kids themselves. This film shows the kind of things about childhood and growing up many parents wouldn't probably even dare to thing about, but still I think this should be seen by every parent who is going to have or already has had a child who is waiting to be raised as a decent and undisturbed human being.

But what about Seth, since he is also very mean and selfish at many points? I think it is among the points and things which make this film so powerful and merciless, because there's absolutely no hope for the characters of the film, they're gone/destroyed for ever and others just can't take it and go completely insane and self destuctive. But there's hope for us, the viewers, who accept the film's challenging subjects and things from our everyday life. This film teaches, shows, enlightens and horrifies us as powerfully as it makes us wonder the visual beauty and settings of the film.

The visual eye of Ridley's is great and wonderful, and Reflecting Skin proved it for the first time in big screen. The collaboration of Ridley and cinematographer Dick Pope (The Way of the Gun) is among the greatest I've seen for long time. The fields and rural settings are so gorgeous and the colors in which they bathe really fill this film with cinematic magic, which is also present in Ridley's The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995) which was photographed by John de Borman. Darkly Noon fails a little as it hasn't got characters as deep as they should, but visually Reflecting Skin and Darkly Noon are equally brilliant and stunning. Due to the much stronger and disturbing emotional content and elements of Reflecting Skin, the visual beauty naturally gives a huge contrast to the experience, and also a goal which should be reached by the film's characters, unless it wasn't already too late for them.

Music is very important element in Cinema, and Reflecting Skin shines on that level, too. Nick Bicât composed both Darkly Noon and Reflecting Skin, but the soundtrack in the latter really stayed into my mind after the first viewing. It is very close to Clint Mansell's unique power in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream's (2000) soundtrack. Aronofsky's film would not be as powerful without Mansell's heart stopping and breaking music, and that is also the case with Reflecting Skin. The final image and last 2 minutes of Reflecting Skin would be extremely intense without the music, but now they are perfectly harrowing and powerful, thanks to the talent and gift of Nick Bicât.

These ultra powerful and harrowing films usually have at least one element in common: the final scene, sequence or image, which usually takes the viewer as far as possible and truly tests the tolerance, without never being gratuitous or exploitative. Reflecting Skin's ending is heart breakingly harrowing, mostly because of the fact that Seth has never given clues of something like this during the film, and thus it comes pretty unexpectedly, but still very understandably, as it all tightens the film's message and theme for the last time. The ending is very powerful and so is the artist behind this film.

Ridley has also written the screenplay for Peter Medak's The Krays on same year (1990), but that film has different themes and is not as important and personal as Reflecting Skin, but still The Krays is recommended for those interested in Ridley. It is very sad and weird that Ridley hasn't done anything in the field of cinema for many years (as far as I know, Darkly Noon is so far the last film he has done), because it would be so great if there was some future projects and cinema plans for the director. I really hope Ridley would continue making films one day, because world needs his kind of film makers.

I can't say anything which would give Reflecting Skin less than 10/10 because it lacks all the things - mostly little too shallow characters - which make The Krays and Darkly Noon a little less effective and striking works. Reflecting Skin is a true masterpiece but only for those who can accept and stand extremely depressing and harrowing images, situations, human destinies and over all atmosphere, and most importantly, honest and uncompromising cinema.

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26 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Great Film

Author: ben mason
11 July 2005

The Reflecting Skin is, by far, the best film I have ever seen.

The film is about a young 8-year-old boy named Seth Dove, who leads a fairly normal childhood in the prairie farmlands of the 1950's.

When a friend is murdered and his father, who has a secret past, is accused of the crime Seth's world is suddenly turned upside down. However, Seth becomes fixated with a reclusive widow named Dolphin Blue and, convinced she is a vampire, believes she is responsible for the death of his friends. He also believes she is out to kill his older brother Cameron and will stop at nothing to save him.

This film deals with dark psychological territory that some viewers may find disturbing. However, I do recommend you watch this film as Philip Ridley has directed a film that shows how a child's imagination can be extremely overactive but also, it shows just how cruel the adult world can be.

The film is also shot in a very beautiful way. It oozes atmosphere and the use of colour in the film is fantastic. Ridley combines, successfully, the colours Blue, Yellow, Black, Grey and white and it just brings the film to life.

I do recommend this film to anyone, as i have done to my friends who have loved it. So, rent it out. Sit down. Enjoy.

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20 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Best abuse film this abuse specialist has ever seen

Author: bwedin from United States
19 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As a psychologist who has worked with child abuse victims and their families for over 30 years, and as a survivor of horrific child abuse myself, I would say that The Reflecting Skin is the most psychologically accurate depiction of child abuse that I've ever seen. And certainly the most uncompromising in terms of not romanticizing the victim. In The Reflecting Skin--SPOILER ALERT--the central victim is an 8-year-old farm boy, who is traumatized at one time or another by nearly everyone in his life. His mother, Ruth, rejects him and punishes him with water poisoning. His father, Luke, commits suicide in front of him. A depressed young widow, Dolphin Blue, terrorizes him with details of her husband's suicide and remnants of his corpse she has saved in a cigar box. Even his beloved older brother, Cameron, who himself is a victim of both his mother's incestuous advances and the US military's atomic testing program in the Pacific, is sometimes physically and emotionally abusive towards him—at one point showing him the photo of a Hiroshima baby with "reflecting skin," from which the film takes its names. But unlike the usual tearjerker Hollywood movie about child abuse, Seth is no more an "innocent angel" than is his brother or his father or his friends who get murdered. At the point we meet Seth running through a Van Gogh-colored field with a huge toad in his hands, he is already turning into the next generation of abuser—happily blowing up that toad with air the same way his mother blows him up with water. And he manages to retaliate against one of the adult abusers in his environment, Dolphin Blue, in the process. But he doesn't mean to kill her. Yet that is where his silence about the gang of serial killers he sees roaming the country roads in a black Caddy finally leads. That is the realization that finally shatters him. But what alternative to silence does he have? The best chance he has of stopping the killers is when Sheriff Ticker tries to force him into spilling his secrets. Yet the sheriff is so verbally abusive to Seth—even to the point of threatening to split Seth's head open to get the truth out of him—that Seth freezes and says nothing. Like most abused kids Seth believes that he's entirely on his own. And to judge from all the negative reviews of this film he has reason to feel that no one will understand him and know how to help him. Because of all the abuse he's already internalized at the point the film begins, he is no more lovable as a victim than the mummified fetus he tries to make his friend.

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14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

The beauty of mournful darkness,

Author: HumanoidOfFlesh from Chyby, Poland
10 January 2010

"The Reflecting Skin" is among the most beautiful and elegiac movies I have ever seen.It's dark and depressing film which takes place during 50's.Philip Ridley's full-length debut features many memorable moments for example frog exploding in a torrent of blood and guts,a couple of chirping ladies walking close to Seth and carrying a dead seagull,a gruesome suicide that ended with a burning gas station and the discovery of the mummified baby in the barn.The water plays the major theme in "The Reflecting Skin".The film is extremely poetic with its bleak subject matter of loneliness and mourn.The cinematography of Dick Pope is breathtaking with some moody shots of the fields,rolling hills and big skies.Dreamy and strangely hypnotic "The Reflecting Skin" is an unforgettable trip into sadness and melancholy.9 out of 10.

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17 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

One of the most beautifully filmed pieces ever!

Author: deacon_blues-1 from United States
7 October 2005

Heartrendingly beautiful scenes of too-golden wheat fields. Also shattering in its disturbing imagery and subject matter. Solidly acted by all concerned. This film really needs to be on DVD! Hey! Get it done already! It's a crime to have to watch this on inferior VHS media. The world of childhood encounters the horrifying adult world in a series of inexplicable tragedies and horrendous crimes. Emotionally charged for anyone who remembers what it's like to be a child peering into the Pandora's's box of mature reality with all it's terrifying dangers, from which children are normally sheltered. Here the worlds collide with devastating impact; and yet, as the tag line states, it's all quite natural and must be taken in stride in order to encounter life in a meaningful way. Yes, children, life is full of lunacy, failure, cruelty, persecution, suicides, murderers, death and decay. Welcome to our life. The ultimate answer to the Simple Plan song, the fact is that, Yes we all know what it's like, because we all have to live it; your experience is not some uniquely tragic exception, it's just the universal, horrifying reality. Thank God that most of the time we don't have to face it, and life is good. But, to take a poignant line from Grand Canyon, "If you live long enough, some awful bad (stuff's) gonna happen to ya."

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Great movie. Unusual atmosphere

Author: tbyrne4 from United States
19 February 2006

Really a good film. Definitely worth finding. I guess the only place you can score "The Reflecting Skin" is ebay, but I would recommend shelling out the few extra bucks. It's worth it. It would spoil the film to give away too much. And director Philip Ridley interweaves everything together masterfully. I mean MASTERFULLY. When you watch it you'll know what I mean.

Young Seth lives in rural America at the end of WWII. Kids are getting killed in the town. Seth and his friends are convinced his creepy neighbor lady who always wears sunglasses and is pale and British, is the culprit (and that she's a vampire). Seth's brother (played by a young Viggo Mortenson) comes home from the war and promptly falls in love with the neighbor lady. Of course, this horrifies Seth. And stuff even starts to happen to his brother to confirm his suspicions. But there's a reason. You probably shouldn't know more. There are a couple of different plot threads. They are all haunting. Especially the backstory involving Mortenson, which I found chilling. One monologue to the British lady about his experiences in the war he tells with absolute innocence (when you see it you understand, given the time period) is blood-curdling.

The scenery/cinematography is amazing. Lot of remarkable imagery. Stuffs that REALLY sticks in your mind. Not just the images of little kids bounding through wheat fields (which there are plenty of) but the way the houses seem utterly rooted into the landscape. The way the whole atmosphere has a strange, haunted feeling. Great stuff. Highly recommended. Nothing TOO terribly frightening, but LOTS of creepiness. Actually, the whole film is just plain creepy.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Unknown Little Gem

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
20 July 2015

In the 50's, the eight year-old Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper) uses to play prank with his friends Kim (Evan Hall) and Eben (Codie Lucas Wilbee) in the rural area of the United States. Seth lives with his father Luke Dove (Duncan Fraser), who runs a gas station and a junkyard in the middle of nowhere, and with his dysfunctional mother Ruth Dove (Sheila Moore), who misses her son Cameron Dove (Viggo Mortensen) that fought in the Pacific. One day, Luke is reading a vampire pulp and Seth asks his father about vampires. When Seth has to apologize for a prank to his neighbor, the widow Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan), he believes she is a vampire. Eben is found murdered and Sheriff Ticker (Robert Koons) and his Deputy (David Bloom) blame Luke that has record of molestation. Luke does not bear the accusation and commits suicide while Seth believes Dolphin killed Eben. Cameron returns and soon he has a love affair with Dolphin while his little brother tries to discourage his brother to meet her. Kim is abducted by a group of youths in a black Cadillac and Seth witnesses the kidnapping. Soon Kim's body is found in a barn but Seth does not tell the Sheriff. When Dolphin asks for a ride to the driver of the Cadillac, Seth does not warn her. What will happen to Dolphin?

"The Reflecting Skin" is an unknown little gem by Philip Ridley, with one of the darkest and weirdest stories of cinema. The disturbing plot is very well constructed and uses the innocence of a wicked eight year- old boy and how he fantasizes his interpretation of reality. All the characters are non-likable and vicious, from the children and families to the Sheriff and his Deputy. The cinematography is also very beautiful in the rural landscape with bright colors. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Reflexo do Mal" ("The Reflection of Evil")

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