I Lost My Body by Jérémy Clapin is a dreamlike, beautiful, unbearably sad and tender animation.
A Cut Above the Restby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
A severed hand escapes from a hospital fridge and travels spider-like across Paris to find its owner. And in the course of I Lost My Body we find out who that hand belonged to and how it became separated from its body.
Naoufel (voiced by Hakim Faris) is a sensitive young man who grew up as a lively boy in the warmth of North Africa with well-to-do loving parents, who were classical musicians, and who now is living in a cold, inhospitable Paris with uncaring relatives. While working as a woefully unsuccessful pizza delivery boy, he falls in love with Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois), the French girl whose disembodied voice he talks to over the intercom to her flat when he’s trying to deliver her pizza.
I Lost My Body is a beautifully drawn animation. The story ranges back and forth in flashbacks, with the present in colour and the past monochrome. We see all the uses that hands can be put to in various aspects of life – playing musical instruments or just simply making gestures to communicate.
The animation’s point of view alternates between Naoufel’s eyeline and down to the ground level of the disembodied hand as it determinedly negotiates drains, rats, pigeons and other threats to its vulnerable progress across the city. In one scene, it gently replaces a dummy in a baby’s mouth and as the baby wraps its tiny fist around one of its fingers and we sense the hand’s need for human contact. At times the images take us off into the night sky and the depths of the universe and then we swoosh back to the grim realities of a lonely young man’s chilly urban life.
What we are shown is unusual, entrancing and so dreamlike and involving that you forget you’re watching an animation. It’s a 2-D drawn animation – though stunningly realised – and yet it’s also one of the most beautiful and also one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen on screen. It’s adapted by Guillaume Laurant from his book Happy Hand, co-written with director Jérémy Clapin.
In the film’s all-too-brief 86 minutes it covers love, loss, grief, cruelty, tenderness and the physical dislocation of migration that can separate a human being from their core and their identity. It’s a must-see.
The English-dubbed version stars Dev Patel, Alia Shawkat and George Wendt.
I Lost My Body premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Nespresso Grand Prize, becoming the first animated film to do so in the section’s history, screened at the BFI London Film Festival and is released on 22 November 2019 in the UK and on Netflix.