Perfect Skin – The obsession with the eternity of art

by Ettore Arcangeli. Translated by Gaia Venturini 

The desire to make his own art eternal beyond the mortal life of the artist moves the mankind to cross new expressive boundaries. This desire may easily turn into an obsession which consumes the man from the inside and pushes him towards a non – human condition.

Briefly, this is the great theme hidden behind Perfect Skin, a psychological thriller by the English director Kevin Chicken. The theme of the art is developed in the London body modification context. Here, in London, the tattoo artist Bob Reid sees the skin of the young polish Katia as a perfect canvas for his work.

Usually the tattoo is a way to express one’s ego. On the contrary, this is for Katia a pure act of violence. Indeed, Katia is a victim of Bob and of his artistic attentions, first kidnapped then psychologically and physically tortured. Kept in a cellar, the girl will be forced to endure the tattooing sessions of her captor, who wants to make a work of art of her and so gain the eternity.

Richard Brake is Bob

Bob is a disturbing character. His obsession with art leads him to act as a non – human. He handles his victim as a sculptor would with the marble, with the same care and tact, but just in order to achieve his artistic objective. He uses precautions, not to defend Katia’s health and life, but rather to keep that purity which makes her a canvas.

The two characters evolve on two parallel paths with two different destinations. It’s not just Katia’s body that changes, but her mind, too. Bob, who uses art to try to find the meaning of his life, devotes himself to this troubled relationship with the canvas-prisoner.

The director completely succeeds in conveying the idea of Bob’s obsession thanks to scenes of a great emotional and visual impact. The needle, that repeteadly stings the pure white skin of the girl, determines the gradual rythm of Bob’s maniacal obsession. The ink spreads and seizes the screen like a poison which breeds the tattoo artist’s sadism.

The gloomy atmosphere of London in the film is not just an aspect of the capital city climate, but a way to describe the characters’s souls: they’re alone, shattered, sad, marginalised and lost. There’s no light in their life and there can’t be light other than the interiors cold one.

In this sense, Katia is the symbol of the hope for a better future. The girl, an immigrant in the UK capital for a few months with this white and bright skin, represents the dream of a better life. A dream that gradually turns into a nightmare  because of the insanity of her captor.

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