I Lost My Body Review: Animated April

Year: 2019
Runtime: 81 Minutes
Director: . Jérémy Clapin
Writers: Jérémy Clapin & Guillaume Laurant. Based on Happy Hand by Guillaume Laurant
Voice Actors: Hakim Faris, Victoire du Bois

Special Guest Writer: Devin McGrath-Conwell

Even for their comparable centrality to daily life, hands are rarely granted the same artistic fascination as eyes in terms of metaphorical and poetic consideration. Proverbs and clichés alike lean on ideas of sight. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Literature and cinema follow the same path, whether it’s horror stories fixating on visions and illusions or the very idea of voyeurism as a touchpoint for artists from Alfred Hitchcock to Gillian Flynn. Sight dominates sensory storytelling, yet it is eschewed in favor of the tactile significance of hands and touches in “I Lost My Body” (2019). Jérémy Clapin’s film offers the parallel narratives of Naoufel (Hakim Faris) as he yearns for Gabrielle (Victoire du Bois), and Naoufel’s hand which embarks on a perilous journey to reunite with its body.

In his poem “The Guilty One,” Pablo Neruda writes “Why did I not make a broom? / Why was I given hands at all? / What purpose did they serve / if I only saw the rumor of the grain…” Clapin’s film suggests a spiritual answer to Neruda’s questions, filtering Naoufel’s life through the hand’s fractured remembrances of it. Seemingly riffing on the many amnesia tales that present a protagonist searching for their identity, “I Lost My Body” treats the hand like a desperate voyager using its disordered but poignant memories to guide a return to self. Each of the glimpses into its life before an accident cleaved it from Naoufel’s body lingers on a touch or action the hand carried out. Whether with food, friends, or the woodwork that preceded the accident, Clapin’s narrative and direction foreground the sheer breadth of work our hands put in on a daily basis. 

Still from “I Lost My Body” | Photo Credit: IMDb

“Sight dominates sensory storytelling, yet it is eschewed in favor of the tactile significance of hands and touches in “I Lost My Body” (2019). “

Aesthetically, Clapin and team place that tale in an animation landscape akin to a living watercolor. The narrative suggests magical realism, what with its personified hand but otherwise grounded cityscape. Clapin’s visual choices underscore the tactile nature of the story by presenting a world where textures feed into one another. Yes, much of this happens in close-ups of hands carrying out domestic tasks or even scaling city walls, but it also emerges as integral to the conception of Naoufel’s surroundings. Falling snow whirls and mingles with the grayish light of a slumbering cityscape. Sawdust flits into frame and settles on the worn seams of Naoufel’s wardrobe. Clapin and his animators, therefore, present a filmic world that matches the magical leanings of the questing hand without ever abandoning the grounding principles pulsing underneath this narrative about an appendage’s physical link to a frenzied world. 

Still from “I Lost My Body” | Photo Credit: IMDb

Even though “I Lost My Body” did end up nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2020 Academy Awards, it seems that the dual nature of losing to the behemoth “Toy Story 4” (2019) and its nature as a foreign-language film on Netflix has stymied its reputation. That is an utter shame for “I Lost My Body” is a lyrical and magnificently animated meditation on what it means to be human.

“I Lost My Body” is available on Netflix.

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