Strand and strange. This is to be expected from the title, which does act as a warning. Ben Aston’s ten minute short about a man who decides to take his skin off for his girlfriend, is a fascinating look into relationships and the human anatomy.
This is a film with only two characters and neither of them talks. The plot is driven by the over voice of the girlfriend, telling us about how she adored her boyfriend for making such a big sacrifice and her disconnection to him as he begins to lose his identity. It is an excellent example of allowing the subtext to speak louder than the spoken word. But there are still so many questions left on the viewer’s mind that go on lingering. The main one being, why does he take off his skin? This unfortunately is never answered.
The real success of Aston’s piece is the journey it took to get to the end result, but this isn’t altogether too obvious from the film. Aston’s work is a Kickstarter campaign, crowd funding an impressive £9181. But looking at the film, you might struggle to see what that money was spent on. Prosthetics. A large chunk of the budget was used to make the boyfriend’s blood vessels look as realistic as possible and it really does pay off. In the behind the scenes video, Aston gushes about his admiration for everyone who helped make the film, the creatives who spent hours applying fake blood and plastic to the man’s skin and all the backers who supported him. What is remarkable about this film is that there is no computer graphics used at all. Everything is shot on camera is a real achievement of the art department. For example, the scene where the boyfriend is pulling at his skin to take it off is actually Gary ‘Stretch’ Turner, a man who has incredibly elastic skin and can pull it away from his body. This film is full of tiny details that unless looked into, would go entirely unnoticed.
The boyfriend leaves a sticky, bloody residue around the house that the girlfriend is happy to clean up. He stains the sofas, the bed sheets, the wooden floorboards and her cleaning up after him is a tiny price to pay. The overall strangeness of the piece comes from how normal it is, how it is accepted. It would be perfectly viable for a man to lose his skin in a sci-fi film. You might even expect it. But it is this clash of genre that leaves you feeling uneasy. All of the film is shot in a house where they eat expensive meat cuts for supper and socialize with friends at dinner parties, all the while the boyfriend flashing his skinless frame. You are practically screaming at the laptop monitor for someone to tell you why he doesn’t have any skin. Why is it hanging up in his wardrobe?
This big unanswered question gets a little grating. But Aston is adamant about not answering this question. He claims this is a fairytale and the great thing about it is that we draw on our own lives to find the answers.
But this is a remarkable piece of story telling and artistic creation. It is Aston’s most ambitious project that he owes to those that supported him through Kickstarter. It has been officially selected by numerous prestigious film competitions and there is a plethora of additional footage to sink your teeth into if you want to find out more about the process. Personally, it is the process that is more interested than the end result, but there is something there for everyone.