Film Review – Deerskin

A film by Quentin Dupieux
Starring Jean Dujardin and Adele Haenel
87 minutes
Rated MA15+

The cinema bills it as comedy – it is comedic in parts but of a very black humour. The Director sees it as a horror film. I concur.

In an interview the Dupieux says:

I wanted to film insanity…I really wanted to finally confront a character who goes off the deep end, showing pure obsession, with no explanation for it…

Adele Haenel also brought something very animalistic with her. Her encounter with Jean resulted in something very strange. A lot of stuff goes on in their eyes. It’s very powerful.

Her character was much more rational as written. She’s the one who added something a little more disturbing. As if her character had been contaminated by Georges’ insanity.

In Deerskin I wanted to flirt with shlock, while always remaining faithful to the more realistic aspects of insanity. I realize that that has a very different effect on audiences. It perturbs them. They don’t know whether they’re supposed to be horrified by what they see, or whether they’re expected to laugh. I like that idea very much.

And this pretty much sums it up for this viewer. The film is indeed bizarre and certainly one wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cover one’s eyes. It’s a bit like the shock of that famous scene in the Indiana Jones movie when Indy pulls out a gun and shoots the bad guy with the twirling swords. You can’t help but laugh and you can’t help but admire Indy.

However, admiration for Georges, the protagonist in Deerskin is short-lived, if it comes at all. Pathos around his character soon dissolves as his base and increasingly violent actions take over.

We are aware that Georges has left behind a domestic life. The opening scene has him stuffing his conservative jacket into a service station toilet and flushing it away – a fairly heavy-handed metaphor perhaps. He buys a 100 per cent deerskin jacket and the seller throws in a digital movie camera. Georges portrays himself at the hotel where he takes up residence as a film maker.

The hotel has a darkly surreal air and events there take us firmly into the realm of the strange and inexplicable. In fact, this refusal to explain anything is a feature of the film – and intentional on the part of Dupieux , as he says.

Georges becomes obsessed by the desire to be the only person to wear a jacket and sets about a campaign of increasing coercion and then violence to divest everyone else he sees of his or her jacket. He takes up with hotel employee Denise and quickly the obsession of the jacket takes over with disastrous consequences for all. The jacket takes on an evil presence and power of its own affecting the susceptible.

Reviewers elsewhere describe the film as funny, weird and original. Hard to argue with that really.

Screening from 6 August at Palace Electric Canberra. Details at https://www.palacecinemas.com.au/movies/deerskin