Skin of Man, Heart of Beast (1999)
"Peau d'homme coeur de bête" (original title)

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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 217 users   Metascore: 64/100
Reviews: 14 user | 18 critic | 7 from

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Serge Riaboukine ...
Pascal Cervo ...
Maaike Jansen ...
Marthe (as Maaíke Jansen)
Cathy Hinderchied ...
Virginie Guinand ...
Jean-Louis Richard ...
Tac Tac
Cyril Lecomte ...
Guilaine Londez ...
Marc Brunet ...
Cindy Mostacci ...
Françoise Bertin ...
Mademoiselle Espitalier
René Morard ...
Le père de Bibof
Robert Lucibello ...
Le commissaire
Frédéric Proust ...


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Drama | Mystery


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Release Date:

15 December 1999 (France)  »

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Skin of Man, Heart of Beast  »

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User Reviews

Feminist Parable
16 September 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The earliest reviews in this list are entirely baffling to me.

While this movie does deal with violence towards women (that's the whole point, really), it hardly CELEBRATES it. In fact, very little violence is shown on-screen, and much of that is male-on-male. There's an undeniable tone of threat throughout the film, certainly. A suffocating sense of impending violence overwhelms every frame.

You're made constantly aware just how close the men are to violent rage, and how likely the women (and girls) are to be targeted when this rage breaks out. This oppressive threat, once invoked, serves the film so well that very little actual, on-screen brutality is required to keep the audience in a state of anxious, horrified dread.

For example: in the beginning of the film, we learn that the police officer (one of the three brothers who represent masculinity in the film) is being sent on a forced vacation due to his drinking and unruly behavior. We also learn that his marital difficulties, though unspecified, have resulted in his wife's hospitalization. When asked about an injury to his hand, he jokes about someone hitting themselves on it.

Clearly, he's beaten his wife to the point where she required hospitalization! But we're never shown the incident (as we would be in, say, a Gaspar Noe or a Michael Hanneke film). "Peau d'homme..." makes its points with a great deal of subtlety.

As later, when we see the same character cavorting with two prostitutes in a brothel. There's nothing to the scene that suggests anything violent, but we later learn that the brothel owner is angry at the character because he has harmed one of the girls and "likes to make women bleed". (Note that this is seen as a property crime by the fat, odious brothel owner. He's not worried about the girl's pain and suffering, but only the fact that his merchandise has been damaged!)

Each of the three brothers represents a different kind of male violence/oppression. The older, thug-cop brother represents a "boys will be boys" attitude that allows abuse in the name of self-indulgence. He's a classic French masculine stereotype: the tough, womanizing, working-class anti-hero. But he's rendered here in a way that strips all the romance and glamor off the icon. We see the "charming rogue" for what he really is: nothing more than a childish, thoughtless scumbag.

The middle brother is a simpler maniac. He seems lost and gentle on the surface, but underneath he's a seething mass of confusion and misplaced rage. While his actions are not really any worse than those of the other "boys", he fails to conform to a traditional masculine stereotype, and is thus seen as monstrous. (And ultimately, of course, he's the only one of the three who actually kills a woman, but this seems like coincidence more than evidence of his greater evil.)

The youngest brother is the passive agent of others' brutality. He turns a blind eye to the enslavement and brutalization of women that surrounds him. We're tempted to see him as the "nice" one, but in truth he merely lacks agency.

I can see why a lot of people wouldn't like the view of male nature displayed in this film, but I've got to admit that it seemed accurate to me (if exaggerated for legitimate effect). Read a local paper any day of the week: you'll find story after story about abusive and/or murderous boyfriends, husbands, lovers and sons. Of women being sold around the world as sex-slaves, of adult men having sex with girls barely old enough to walk.

Being a woman in this world must be a lot like being locked in a box with a bunch of attractive hand grenades.

That's why the final scream of the two girls at the end really shouldn't be read as a "hopeful" sign, or a suggestion that they're rejecting the "cycle of violence" in their family. The cycle is not theirs. They have nothing to do with it, and the only relation they will every have with it is as its victims.

Their scream is a scream of rage.

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