WORLDLY WEDNESDAY: "I LOST MY BODY" ON NETFLIX
You don't have to read director Jérémy Clapin's animated feature "I Lost My Body" as a metaphor. It works perfectly well as a straight-ahead romance and adventure story, provided you're willing to suspend enough disbelief to allow for a severed hand to think, feel, remember, and propel itself across Paris. A young man named Naoufel (Hakim Faris) has some sort of accident (the specifics are obscured until the final act) separating his body from his hand. When the hand "wakes up" and finds itself in a lab, it escapes and begins a strange journey home.
Along the way, we see Naoufel's life pass by in flashback: the death of his parents when he was still a boy, immigrating to France, an ill-fated job delivering pizzas, and finally, an encounter with snarky loner Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois) that changes everything. Naturally, these scenes are all depicted from "hands-eye view"; we see Naoufel's memories from his fingertip's perspective, not his eyes, as in a normal flashback. It's one very clever touch of many, the sort of visual conceit you could only make work with the freedom of animation.
So, as I said, I think you can watch and enjoy "I Lost My Body" purely on this level, as a touching look at Naoufel and Gabrielle's serendipitous relationship and an action-adventure about an unattached hand's efforts to cross a big, bustling metropolis.
But once you start picking at "I Lost My Body," I think, it becomes clear that Clapin and his co-writer, Guillaume Laurant (on whose novel, "Happy Hand," the film is based) have a lot more on their minds. (Or their hands.) Certainly, Naoufel's story speaks to the immigrant experience, the feeling of being disconnected and adrift, in an environment for which you are not ideally equipped. But the film is also about resiliency, and how we're constantly confronted by the choice to stay the course and keep fighting, or resign ourselves to defeat and give up. Naoufel's hand gains greater maneuverability and confidence as it travels, taking on more imposing challenges and doing more problem solving; at first, the hand struggles even to "walk" on its extended fingers, but by the end, it's battling subway rats and ziplining across freeways. The whole idea of a hand going on an adventure without its body also inevitably raises questions about personal identity: your hand is part of you, but it's not YOU. Naoufel still exists somewhere in this world, continuing his life, without his hand. His hand is important to him, but it does not define him.
I could keep going but you get the idea. On top of just being beautifully animated and supremely involving (there are some real edge-of-your-seat moments, even though we're talking about the survival of a hand that has already been cut off), "I Lost My Body" has some real thoughtfulness and depth. It's worth seeking out.
Title: "I Lost My Body"
Where to Watch: Netflix
Running time: 81 minutes
Genre: Animated romance-adventure
In French with English dubbing or subtitles