Can Go Through Skin Esther Rot

Post-traumatic cinema is in the air (and in this magazine—see Chris Petit’s article “Cinema's Afterlife”). Dutch director Esther Rots’s debut feature provides for a most bracing and literal PTC treatment. Marieke (Rifka Lodeizen) suffers a double whammy: after the end of a relationship she’s sexually asssaulted by a stranger. She retreats from her flat in Amsterdam to a starkly isolated and dilapidated country house to convalesce. Home improvement becomes the operative metaphor for self-help, but the state of absolute decay that permeates the new abode suggests that mental health won’t come easy. While the architecture may not exactly come alive to torment Marieke à la Repulsion, Rots’s fluid yet elliptical style hints at horrors present in the protagonist’s mind, if not actual reality.

In addition to the film’s canny visual strategy, and an unnerving use of sound and music, Lodeizen’s performance clinches the deal. She’s willing—but more importantly, able—to expose herself in dangerous ways. And it’s not so much the fragility of the body that matters. There are moments in which Rots bends the rules and allows Lodeizen to gaze directly into the camera. It’s uncanny, but in those flashes, when Marieke seems to silently beg the viewer for help, she seems positively empowered.

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