Le Sentiment de la Chair (The Sentiment of the Flesh) (Director: Roberto Garzelli): When Helena, a young medical illustrator, begins experiencing lower back pain, she goes for x-rays, bringing her into contact with Benoit, a radiologist. A series of circumstances brings them together again and again and soon they are involved in a passionate love affair. Each of them is drawn to obsessively document the human body, both inside and out, and in order to break down all barriers to intimacy, they go to extreme lengths to explore each other’s bodies. Robert Garzelli’s feature debut has the germ of a fascinating idea at its heart, but in the end is as shallow, albeit beautiful, as its protagonists.
When Helena tells Benoit that it is a privilege for him to be able to see inside people, she’s right. But in equating that with intimacy, both she and Benoit are ludicrously misguided. If the film seemed more aware of that irony, it could have been a fascinating exploration of a romantic relationship. When she asks Benoit to scan her completely in an MRI machine, saying “I don’t want to have any secrets from you,” I almost laughed out loud, for all that we’ve seen from this extremely attractive couple up to that point has been an intense sexual relationship. Neither seems to know or care anything about the other’s family, circle of friends, dreams or aspirations.
The fact that Benoit can possess a full set of images of his lover’s body gives him no insight into her character. It’s simply x-ray porn. The lovers’ belief that they can know each other by knowing each other’s bodies is naive, at first charmingly, and then disturbingly so. If it was only that easy to see what was inside the other’s mind, heart, or soul.
In the end, the film goes for the psychological angle, and almost becomes a thriller, as we see these two obsess over, and then reject each other as they try to quell the growing intensity of their shared fetish. The final scene is meant to disturb, and it does, to a point. It prompted a few walkouts from the audience at my screening, but failed to generate any emotional reaction from me. The director seems to keep his distance, giving the film a cold, hard, dare I say clinical edge. Unfortunately, if there was any beating heart in this film, the x-rays failed to find it.