I Lost My Body is a delightfully visionary tale about memory, self-discovery, and relationships. Set in dark and unromantic contemporary Paris, Jérémy Clapin’s mesmerising film will bring you on the verge of tears and make you feel oddly elevated at the same time. Animated movies still know how to fascinate us, and here’s how Clapin’s film does the trick.
Though Steamboat Willie’s spell-bound days are long gone, animated movies still know how to keep us enthralled, and Jérémy Clapin’s I Lost My Body (J’ai perdu mon corps) gives proof of that. Clapin’s story takes place in contemporary dark and unromantic Paris, where Moroccan multi-generation immigrant Naoufel (Hakim Faris) lives and works as a delivery boy for a pizza place in the suburbs of the city. Both the congenital poverty and the problematic racial mix of those neighbourhoods are neatly drawn on the background of the bustling metropolis, and every pizza Naoufel delivers (very few indeed) reeks of broken dreams and of hatred towards what fate kept in store for him.
Naoufel lost his parents in a car crash, and with them all his hopes for a bright and promising future. He shares a dingy two-rooms flat with a couple of down-and-outer relatives and lacks love and human warmth. But so apparently does Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois), an all-white French girl who works at a local library and seems to be bored to death of everything that surrounds her. As the two of them meet over the intercom during a rather odd pizza delivery, Naoufel reaches out to find her again and begins working at her uncle’s joiner’s workshop as an apprentice. One day, while distractedly using one of the instruments in the lab, Naoufel cuts off his right hand. That’s when the film begins, alternating flashback sequences from Naoufel’s past with his hand’s desperate race across the city to be reunited with its body.
But that’s when our personal journey through past, present and memories begins as well. Caught in the spell of Clapin’s camera and brilliant joint use of 2D and 3D animation techniques, we jump from Naoufel to his hand and back to his full body again, soon beginning to feel like we have lost ourselves as well. Guided through Naoufel’s hand’s body memory, we wade through the waters of everything we (physically) met and experienced. We recall the primal truths we discovered through our sense of touch. We get more and more fascinated by this oddly moving little piece of body, gone astray and blind but skilled like nothing else at traversing the perilous land of never-sleeping Paris. And it all feels so simple.
It feels so simple to get in touch with other human beings that we almost get scared if we think of it. Clapin’s animations teach us a shortcut through the humdrum existence of our average working days, and they show us that, no matter the colour of our skins, we all have the same fundamental needs; we all have the same uncertainties and weak spots. This is why I Lost My Body is a political film that doesn’t flaunt political stances; a feminist tale that doesn’t oppress girls, and an unobtrusive social manifesto that reconnects with the native dream of good old moving images – to present reality as it is, peppering it up with just a sprinkle of magic.
You shouldn’t expect an all-healing recipe from Clapin’s film. That wouldn’t be realistic enough. But you will get plenty of musing material and tear-propelling frames to sweeten the dreary work in progress of your daily routine. It was high time someone who wasn’t Michel Ocelot struck the chord of visionary realism in France. Now we can keep on dreaming our sweet dreams. Resting assured that there’s someone out there who will give word to our silent utterances and speak up for our repressed existential discomfort whenever we feel like we cannot take it anymore.