Following a separation or estrangement from his wife, Georges (Jean Dujardin) finds himself in a sleepy French alpine town, where he spends thousands of dollars on a tasselled, vintage deerskin jacket. He is immediately taken by the jacket’s ‘killer style’, and the seller gives Georges a digital camera as a gift. Georges, wanting to disappear from his problems and forge a new life, begins to tell people he is a professional filmmaker. His obsession with the jacket, and soon all things deerskin, grows stronger and stronger, until it exerts a disturbing power over him. Broke, and with no access to money after his wife blocks their joint bank account, Georges begins to take advantage of a young, enthusiastic bar maid and aspiring editor (Adèle Haenel), who funds and encourages Georges’ delusional film dreams.
Deerskin (Le Daim) is a French surrealist black comedy/comedy-horror, with a cold art-house colour palette and dynamic cinematography, written and directed by Quentin Dupieux (Rubber). Much of the film’s horror is crude and slapstick, but this is a film that excites, shocks and frightens all at once with manic intensity. The film is brisk, never lingering long enough to prompt boredom or questioning about its strange happenings.
Deerskin seems to exist out of time and place, like a dream, without consequence or meaning. In fact, the lack of clear indication as to the film’s time period is what works in its favour, and the film could easily be set anywhere between 1980 and 2010. Deerskin follows a kind of dream logic, where the audience need not know the characters’ backstories, or see any real development – they exist to perpetuate a bizarre plot experiment.
Deerskin leaps between playfulness and a darker severity. There is a subtle yet deliberate satire present, permitted by the scope of the film’s true meaninglessness and absurdity. The juxtaposition of a jaunty score against scenes of debauched violence heightens the film’s surrealism. And all the while, there exists some strange erotic tension between Georges and his beloved jacket.
Georges is vain and narcissistic, yet captivating, in the way a car crash is captivating. Dujardin gives a powerful, stoic performance, and his cold and surly manner is chilling. This spectacularly whimsical film finds much of its comedy in the suddenness of its horror, but also from the delirious assertions of its protagonist and his self-absorbed confidence.
Audiences have been interpreting the film as a critique of Hollywood machismo and chauvinism, or as a hyperbole of masculinity in mid-life crises. But I think there also lies inherent in this film a powerful statement on human greed and consumption of animals for self-absorbed purposes. Who is hunting whom?
I rate this film 8/10.
You can see Deerskin at Luna Palace Cinemas from August 6th.