I Lost My Body movie review: Netflix delivers the best animated film of 2019; a stone-cold masterpiece
I Lost My Body
Director - Jeremy Clapin
Cast - Hakim Faris/Dev Patel, Victoire Du Bois/Alia Shawkat
The fact that it is called I Lost My Body and not I Lost My Hand is perhaps the most telling indication of the unique perspective that director Jeremy Clapin brings to his debut feature, about a severed hand’s epic quest across ‘90s Paris to reunite with the body from which it has been violently separated.
Delicately animated and deftly written, Netflix’s I Lost My Body is one of the finest films of 2019; a stunningly original vision that will no doubt find tremendous love at the Oscars, just like it did at the Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered to warm enthusiasm over the summer.
Watch the I Lost My Body trailer here
A high school debate team would have a field day discussing its title, which immediately frames the narrative from the perspective of the decapitated hand, and not, as you’d expect, the entire human being who is left to live without it. Straightaway, Clapin establishes the adventurous spirit of his film, which like The Hand isn’t afraid to leap off buildings and venture into shady alleys, constantly challenging expectations and defying narrative tradition.
In parallel to The Hand’s quest across cityscapes and sewers, Clapin tells a moving love story that is equal parts Michel Gondry and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Wistful like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and whimsical like Amelie, I Lost My Body’s finest scene comes somewhere around the 20-minute mark, and is set in the lobby of an apartment building. Our protagonist Naofel (Hakim Faris/Dev Patel) is there to deliver a pizza, but finds that he cannot be buzzed in. With rain lashing against the windows outside, and his customer, Gabrielle, 35 floors above him, Naofel is trapped, with no one but Gabrielle to keep him company through the intercom.
“Can you hear the rain?” Naofel asks, betraying his poetic soul. Gabrielle can’t. At that height, all one can hear is the wind. But she can see it. A tender conversation unfolds; two strangers are united for one brief moment, their alienation magically wafted away.
It is also no coincidence that the film’s luxurious score, composed by one half of the indie-pop duo The Dø, has more than a few echoes of Arcade Fire’s incredible music for the 2013 Oscar-winning film Her.
Like that Spike Jonze masterpiece, I Lost My Body is also, essentially, about modern day loneliness, about yearning and loss, and about seeking connections in a disassociated world. It has the elegance of a Terrence Malick mood piece and the occasional maniacal meltdowns of something David Cronenberg might have made in the ‘80s. These aren’t two genres or styles you’d normally associate with one another, but Clapin doesn’t hold back in moments of gory horror, and he positively doubles down on the dreaminess in the film’s more tender moments, when Naofel is recalling his tragic past.
Clapin stylises the flashbacks in black-and-white — a fairly routine approach — but he paints the visuals with a rustic brush of memories, almost as if the scenes have been hand-drawn in pencil. The present-day sequences, on the other hand (no pun intended), are dripping with atmosphere. Suddenly, the colours become an important storytelling tool. Often, it seems like natural spotlights are isolating Naofel in Paris’ imposing concrete jungle; the film’s painterly frames are brilliantly detailed, in stark contrast to the emptiness of Naofel’s life.
At 81 minutes and with an English dub available, I Lost My Body is hardly a demanding experience. But it is a challenging one. For the love of Martin Scorsese, please don’t watch it on your phone.