The Man Who Sold His Skin – Review

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In 2012, Kaouther Ben Hania visited the Louvre museum, which happened to be conducting a retrospective for Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. Ben Hania’s attention is drawn to one of the works entitled Tim. Not a painting, not a sculpture, but a tattoo on the back of a man named Tim Steiner. Apparently since 2008, the tattoo has been owned by a German collector, Rik Reinking, in an agreement that requires Steiner to sit shirtless for hours at various exhibitions to show his tattoo. Another astonishing point of the agreement is that when Steiner dies, his back will be skinned, so that the tattoo can be stored in the Reinking collection room. Top Movie Site

From there, The Man Who Sold His Skin was born, a Tunisian representative at the 2021 Academy Awards, who successfully entered the ranks of the nominees. The case is interesting, but what is Ben Hania trying to say? Apart from allusions to elitists in the art world, there is the issue of the Syrian civil war, as well as racism against immigrants, especially those from the Middle East (I believe the last point is what locks in the nomination status of this film).

Once upon a time, Sam Ali (Yahya Mahayni) was forced to flee to Lebanon, leaving behind his lover, Abeer (Dea Liane), as a result of being accused of provoking a rebellion. Not long ago, Abeer had an arranged marriage with a rich man and moved to Brussels, Belgium. Feeling the need to save the idol’s heart from the “clutches of monsters,” Sam accepts the offer of Jeffrey (Koen De Bouw), an artist, to tattoo his back. The condition is that Sam must be allowed to stay in Brussels.

Unlike Steiner, Sam’s tattoo is in the form of a Schengen visa. According to Jeffrey, the essence of his latest work is to criticize how Syrian refugees are labeled as persona non grata, making access difficult when visiting various countries. Now, as an art object, Sam is free to go anywhere to be shown in the exhibition. “Being a commodity actually returns humanity and freedom,” said Jeffrey. But it didn’t take long for Sam to realize that as he regained these rights, he also lost several other rights. Best Movie

At an exhibition, Sam was reprimanded when he wanted to take a photo with a boy who admired his tattoo. Sam was obliged to continue to sit under the light that shone on his back. As if only that tattooed back was the value of Sam, not him as a whole person. Even her behavior is never out of the scrutiny of the art dealer, Soraya (Monica Bellucci with blonde hair that will make a lot of viewers overlook).

Ben Hania’s manuscript is able to appear attractive in presenting the issue of the dilution of humanity, even when individuals are outside the war zone where many crimes against humanity have occurred. The scene where Sam is shown, then sits on a stage to be auctioned (in a scene that also nudges racism-based prejudice against Middle Easterners), is like turning the clock into slavery. However, modern slavery is under the guise of “art appreciation”.

The Man Who Sold His Skin is not as loud as The Square (2017) in making fun of the elitists of the art world. Instead of slapping their faces, Ben Hania just positioned the film like a museum visitor whispering, gossiping behind his back. The sharpness of Ben Hania’s presentation is also questionable, regarding Jeffrey’s depiction. Is he an elitist who is the target of criticism? If so, why did his attitude change in the end (even though he is still money oriented)?

Jeffrey’s sudden change is like the form of Ben Hania’s confusion over how to get her protagonist out of conflict. The conclusion looks like it comes from a different film (a light entertainment film full of twists that often don’t care about logic), although it must be admitted, in essence, The Man Who Sold His Skin provides the ending its character deserves, after prolonged frustration that was brought to life through Yahya Mahayni’s convincing acting. Movie Review

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