Skin (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus shaves his head to watch this new Dutch skinhead movie on DVD...
It’s 1979 and teenager Frankie (Robert de Hoog) is trying to deal with his mother's illness and his ever growing distance from his father. Finding himself drawn towards the town's skin-head neo-Nazi group, Frankie gets deeper and deeper into trouble.
Told in two time frames, one in 1979 pre prison and then a few months later while in prison, Frankie’s tale was one I wasn’t too keen on watching. It’s not that I don’t like the skin-head sub-genre (in fact there’s a fair few I love— American History X, Romper Stomper and This is England to name but a few) but the idea of watching another movie about a young kid, making some bad decisions, with a whole lot of hate crimes and then a ton of violence wasn’t high on my to do list. Thankfully Skin had a whole lot more to offer.
I won’t lie, all of the expected stepping stones are still in here but Robert de Hoog’s central performance really makes this something else. There’s a real sense of feeling this character get drawn over to the dark side and even more so it’s entirely believable. You don't so much see the drivers of what makes him do the things he does as feel them and it's all very effective. On top of all that, and more poignantly, there is an overwhelming sadness to all of the events here. Beside the inevitability of the story (the film’s called Skin and the combo of the cover art and the opening scene in prison, you sort of know this isn’t going to go well), there’s a real feeling that everything’s falling apart for Frankie. His family life is in tatters, with his dying mother's situation very well handled but it’s his father who really got me.
A Jewish concentration camp survivor not really being able to deal with his life out of the camp is so well depicted with details subtly fed to the audience that I actually felt quite moved by the father’s angle in all this. Seeing his son heading down the neo-Nazi path was just heart-breaking and there’s a scene where he’s attempting to visit his son in prison but the person in front of his has to be searched by the guard and the silent performance here showing how he’s dealing with the memories of his life in a camp and how it stops him going in was absolutely heart wrenching in the most delicate of ways.
As I say, I felt a lot for the characters here and especially Frankie. de Hoog didn’t have to say much to sell everything about his character and his youth really shines out of the performance showing how his inability to deal with his issues would take him where it does. There’s a fantastic scene after he gets his swastika tattoo and he has a moment of doubt about his actions where his facial performance, while looking at himself is a mirror is nothing short of genius. Forcing his emotions away and switching on his hate was very effective and really I came away from this film, a film I didn’t really want to watch when sitting down to review it, like I’d seen something a bit special.
From frame one Skin feels like you’re watching an eighties video. The image is full of grain, its super soft and when compared to modern filmmaking looks like a right mess. Of course, this is entirely intentional, to capture that late seventies feel and honestly it’s very effective at making this hark back to the era it’s set in.
Colours range from natural to a bit blown out, especially in darker scenes where everything gets a bit patchy with absolutely no sharpness to edges. Spotting where one colour stops and another begins is tricky, which makes detail a little shabby too. Again this is to capture an era and I for one think the film was all the better for it.
The simple element here is the dialogue, which lives in the front speakers and never goes anywhere. It feels confined and small and while it’s clear enough, it's very basic in its design. The score has a nice balanced effect between front and rears and while never all that powerful, creates a very good mood when it needs to.
Bigger highlights are the punk bands in the local club. This sounds like a raw recording and again, while it’s never that powerful it’s certainly effective enough and captures a genuine feel of a small, loud gig.
The only extra is the trailer (01:27)
Skin was brilliant and the more I think about it the more I liked it. The underlining sadness to Frankie’s tale was the key element that captured me and I genuinely cared about him and those around him even if the story has been told a good few times before. The disc is purposely grimy to capture the era, so you’ll have to just go with that but the lack of extras here are disappointing as reading around the web this is based on a true story, so it would have been nice to find about a little more about it.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 13th June 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Dutch, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Dutch
Easter Egg: No
Director: Hanro Smitsman
Cast: Robert de Hoog, John Buijsman, Guus Dam
Length: 80 minutes
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