By Don Simpson | July 25, 2011
Director: Roberto Garzelli
Writer: Roberto Garzelli
Starring: Annabelle Hettmann, Thibault Vinçon, Pascal Nzonzi, Pierre Moure
Love makes people — especially characters in films — do some really crazy things. In the case of Héléna (Annabelle Hettmann) and Benoît (Thibault Vinçon), they decide that attraction to each other’s external features is not quite enough; they want to delve deeper into each other, and not metaphorically either. They literally want to peruse each other’s innards, bones, muscles, organs, every nook and cranny.
Their mutual interest in the human anatomy stems from different perspectives, Héléna is pursuing a degree in anatomical drawing, while Benoît is a medical doctor and professor. Héléna and Benoît meet while Héléna is getting x-rays in an attempt to diagnose a lower back pain. In addition to the x-ray of her back, Héléna discovers that Benoît has inexplicably taken an x-ray of her thorax as well. From there, the duo delve into a discussion about how every human being is unique; their individual quests to acquire absolute knowledge about human anatomy (according to Benoît, “1000 painters died not knowing the sentiment of the flesh. Many more will die not knowing…”) are fatefully [or fatally] intertwined. When a date in the MRI lab does not totally quench Benoît’s thirst for completely penetrating Héléna’s intimacy, their desire to continue down this path spirals totally out of control.
I am not quite sure I believe that Héléna and Benoît would have free reign of a hospital to use x-ray and MRI machines as their sex toys. The most unfathomable scenes, however, are when Benoît and Héléna are each caught red-handed on separate occasions, yet no punishment is enacted upon either of them. Then again, I do not work in a French hospital, so maybe security is much more lax than I would expect.
David Cronenberg comparisons are unavoidable, as writer-director Roberto Garzelli’s feature-length debut The Sentiment of the Flesh reveals a certain kinship with the erotic perversity represented in Dead Ringers and Crash; the primary difference is that Garzelli revels in the eroticism while Cronenberg amps up the perversity. The Sentiment of the Flesh is scheduled to be released on DVD in the United States by Strand Releasing on July 26, 2011.