Jérémy Clapin’s critically acclaimed animated feature, “I Lost My Body,” premiered on Nov. 15, 2019. This French story is about a severed hand that travels across Paris to reunite with its owner, who has become a carpenter, in the hopes of winning the heart of a girl he met as a pizza delivery man.
It is a rather abstract film designed for those in need of nuance thrillers and super satisfying visuals. Clapin achieves this single-handedly — pun intended — in a classic yet avant-garde fashion that will render even the most hard-hearted speechless. It’s no wonder the film took the Nespresso Grand Prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and is now one of Netflix’s two nominations to run in this year’s Oscars race.
The beginning sequence is gruesome: we’re introduced to a severed hand in a pool of blood. Your ears itch at the sound of a buzzing fly. Sound plays a major role in Clapin’s storytelling, particularly in the main character’s, Naoufel, childhood.
We are pulled into a flashback, symbolized by a switch from crisp coloration to a greyscale scene in which a young Naoufel is with his father. This opening montage, during which the credits are also revealed, is pure cinematic novelty: sharp transitioning, contrast and the creative use of sound to add deep emotion to the provided imagery.
Throughout the movie’s entirety, we watch Naoufel as a victim of a dull, thrill-less, meaningless life as he works as a lethargic pizza delivery man living with what the audience assumes to be some distant relatives. His aspirations as a child to be both a pianist and an astronaut become nothing more than distant memories. As his severed hand journeys to find him, we are shown the days leading up to the moment where the hand gets severed in the first place.
Much of the story is told not as Naoufel losing his hand, but as his hand losing him. Much of the journey and self-reflection is conducted by the hand, while we also watch Naoufel’s life leading up to the moment his hand is lost. Tension holds steady for much of the movie as we not only wonder about how the incident had happened but rather what will happen when Naoufel and his hand finally reunite.
It is, admittedly, a confusing film with a complex storyline. Fortunately, Netflix provides its English-speaking audience with an English dub. For those who prefer a more organic experience, however, subtitles are also available.
Aside from abstract storytelling, however, Clapin succeeds in providing clear imagery and stunning cinematography. I’d say the animation’s only downfall would be in some character designs, which sometimes feel displaced and disproportionate, although this could simply boil down to artistic preference. Coming from a love of various animated marvels from the international stage, I’d say some of the aspects fall just a pen stroke short of spectacular. Yet when it came to much of the landscape design, it was easy to forget many of these shortfalls.
“I Lost My Body” was an exceptional piece. It stands as proof that streaming services such as Netflix are not only platforms designed for bingeing finished television series, but are now a stage for the experimental, especially when it comes to foreign and independent films. Where theatres fail in featuring the avant-garde, Netflix succeeds, providing films such as Clapin’s work the audience that it deserves.