Skin [Andrea Mychaels, USA, 2017]
Skin depicts an uneasy anxiety surrounding the fragility of the physical interface between our inner and outer worlds. In this short, Andrea Mychaels explores the darker corners of human vulnerability through the grooves, inclines, and surfaces of the physical form in stasis and in motion.
Through playing with natural shadow and light, the film visually highlights a more softened contrast between the paleness of the skin against a wholly black backdrop, this thematic also being carried into the gradually fading transitions between scenes. In certain moments, there is a complete lack of differentiation between ceiling and floor, suspending bodies amidst this blackened canvas so that bodies almost appear to be floating and contorting in space, further enhanced by slowly twisting camera angles.
The naked exposure of the skin to this environment of enveloping darkness creates a dystopic vulnerability, which abandons emotionally charged, romanticised associations that come to mind when we think of human vulnerability (crying, professions of love, the list goes on). The minimal use of black clothing creates the illusion that disembodied human parts are uneasily floating within and subject to a scrutinising and dissecting arena. These are interspersed with scenes of static bodies laying on the floor, or painedly crawling along it, where the illumination of the ground only returns gravity to show how physical contact with this foreboding environment inflicts struggle and pain on the human form, and revealing a tension between the body and its surrounding environment.
The characteristically artificial science-fiction score also continually underscores the film’s use of natural light. The deep reverberating note and the crackling of an old television carries us through these images to create a futuristically metallic, phonetic flavour, which undermines any romanticised beauty of balletic dance movements, speaking rather of some impending dread.
The sound score also functions as a loose narratological structure, as the sharp xylophone note at the end appears to mark a significant moment in time. However, in absurdist and Beckettian fashion, we are left to wonder at its meaning as the bodies again slowly fade into darkness: is this a beginning, an ending, or a dystopic continuation of naked exposure to a cold and darkened world?
Through contemporary dance, Mychaels explores vulnerability in a uniquely abstract yet newly apocalyptic light. In the space of a mere four minutes, Skin successfully illuminates the vulnerability of the twenty-first century human in the face of a dark and unknown future, without offering a solution and leaving us asking questions. Thought-provokingly chilling, watch and you’ll be sure to get goosebumps.
'Skin' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.