Jérémy Clapin’s film is a unique, inventive if slightly undercooked, animated gem
In his debut animated feature, Jérémy Clapin goes for a dark, uncompromising and completely unique animated film in I Lost My Body that is the furthest it could be from classic Disney fare or joyful Illumination animated films. There are no princesses, minions or colorful settings – there is pain, loss, grief and love.
The film is a major step forward for the French and European animated industry especially at a time when less studios are willing to take risks and produce darker, daring toons. But it’s also one of those rare films that doesn’t seek to be a ‘toon’ – it employs animation as a medium rather than a genre, a storytelling device that doesn’t fit categorical standards.
Naoufel, a French young man from Arab descent, lives a decent life with his parents in France. After a tragic incident, he is forced to move to his uncles’ place in the city where he lands a job as a pizza delivery man. One day, as he sets out to deliver a pizza to a customer, he meats a charismatic girl who steals his heart. Soon after, he loses his right hand as a result of a grave error.
The film follows two journeys – Naoufel’s journey in finding love and emotional sanctuary, and Naoufel’s hand’s attempt to reach Naoufel’s body once again after being locked in a hospital room. Naoufel’s story cuts between past and present, as we see more of his childhood and relationships. We also get to see his earlier life from his hand’s perspective, as it goes through sensory experiences such as touching the bright sun or drowning in hot sand.
It is beautiful, somber work and a completely unique story that focuses on pain and loss while never shying away from the gore – and it manages to do that while still remaining accessible enough so as not to alienate audiences. It is certainly not a kids’ flick but that was never the intention.
Unlike most protagonists of animated films, Naoufel is a vulnerable ghost of a person whose future is quite uncertain. He loses several people and intangible motivations throughout the film, and we follow his downward spiral as well as his hand’s hopeful quest to return to him. In wanting to build an igloo on a rooftop, Naoufel’s intense need for sanctuary, protection and solitude subtly offers a vivid psychological picture of a fractured youth who is yet to find what he’s looking for in life.
A slightly undercooked, or perhaps rushed, finale takes away from the overall charm of the film – the resolution that Naoufel goes through feels too immediate, too quick and the buildup to it is not quite accomplished compared to the rest of the film but this is still stunning work from an emerging voice in animation.
With excellent use of sound and a smart decision to have grey colors dominate much of the film, Jérémy Clapin expertly uses his animation talent to build a mood, a difficult task that often animated films ignore. There are no flashy colors, catchy songs or forced comedic scenes. I Lost My Body is an animated gem that knows exactly what it wants to be – and that in itself is quite the accomplishment.