Flesh of my Flesh is more of an experiment in style than plot, but it works.
I had the pleasure of seeing this mostly unknown French film thanks to a giveaway from Fangoria for a pair of free tickets to a showing at the Lincoln Society of Film in NYC.
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I have never seen other works from director Denis Dercourt and, from a quick scan through IMDb, it seems Flesh of my Flesh (La Chair de ma Chair) is his first dabble with the horror genre.
The film follows Anna (Anna Juliana Jaenner), an Austrian immigrant living in France with her six-year-old daughter. The daughter has unique dietary needs, which forces Anna to seduce and dismember various men for their flesh and blood. Flesh of my Flesh makes up for its simple plot and a lackadaisical and predictable ending with unique camera-work, superb acting, and slick sound design.
Jaenner's portrayal of the icy, stoic Anna is outstanding. Her methodical and calculated movements cast Anna as an unreachable and disturbed woman. At the same time, Jaenner pulls the audience in with small but powerful glimpses of Anna's inner turmoil. Anna is, understandably, most exposed when her daughter is near.
We are first introduced to Anna as she resides in a psychiatric hospital, after she has been caught for murder. Immediately, Flesh of my Flesh seeks to disorient the viewer with a dreamlike and presumably subjective POV as the camera flitters in-and-out of focus. Every scene is shot in soft focus and blurs along the edges of the screen. Jaenner's mechanical and deliberate acting style works well in contrast to the sporadic and random camera-work.
After the film, there was a Q&A with Dercourt himself. Just to be clear, Dercourt did everything on this film. He was the director, editor, sound designer, and cameraman. The only thing he didn't do was the music. During the Q&A, Dercourt discloses how he shot the film. The lens was not mounted, instead Dercourt held the lens over the camera and manually moved it in-and-out of focus. He explained that none of the effects were done in post.
Flesh of my Flesh is more of an experiment in style than plot, but it works. Dercourt achieves what he wanted with the stylistics of the film, but it isn't, unfortunately, able to overcome the flimsy storyline. Psychological Horror is a large undertaking, even for the most seasoned horror director, but I would say that Dercourt pretty much nails it.
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