Words by Sarah Lapinksy and Maxine Flasher-Düzgünes.
Opening on rippling Lake Kleptuza to an eerie, atmospheric beat, In Her Skin primes the digital stage for a fascinating performance of fashion, character and embodiment. Choreographer, Kosta Karakashyan, draws upon the moody aesthetic of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, to juxtapose nature and the characters through distinct contrasts and bold shifts of tone. As the characters slowly trickle into the space, I first view them as objects within the space, equal to the flowing river and leaves blowing in the wind before their movement shifts them prominently to the focus. The characters credited as: The Housewife, The Femme Fatale, The Runaway, The Girl by the Lake and The Ghost are beautifully physicalized by the performers as they find themselves inexplicably, intertwined in this location.
First to enter the scene is The Housewife, who disappears and reappears through the frame with a measured sharpness before boldly descending a long staircase. I am drawn in by the marked sound of her high heels meeting the steps. Her ensemble featuring a pencil skirt, detailed collar, long black gloves, sunglasses and small, black purse, compliments the performers’ authoritative yet flirty physicality. As she moves through different locations, I am struck by a particular frame about a third of the way into the film: shot from afar, The Housewife walks along a concrete wall with a waterfall flowing into the lake at the edge of the screen. With matching power, the dancer and the waterfall are beautifully juxtaposed before a swift and smooth cut brings her to a new location. Her physicality grows as she whips her purse about until a shift in the music prompts a showy, theatrical moment where she notices the next character. Cue entrance: The Femme Fatale.
In a black fringed blazer, leotard, heels and a daring red lip, The Femme Fatale slinks down the stairs to the intriguing beat before a quick cut introduces us to The Girl by The Lake. For just a moment, we see The Girl by the Lake sitting in front of the flowing body of water in a large, white fur coat before a transitional hair flip brings us back to The Femme Fatale dancing seductively on a pier. Her movement has an emphasis on touch that creates a sensuality in the character but also re-focuses my attention to the experience of the space. At this point, I have to mention a moment that made me smile where a pedestrian couple floats by the pier in a paddle boat seemingly unfazed by the performance or videography going on around them; as the film as so wonderfully attuned me to the environment at this point, I find humor in their obliviousness, and I’m thankful for the inclusion of this charming, human moment that amplifies the surrealism of the elaborate characters.
As The Femme Fatale’s featured section comes to an end, we hear whispers and the beat increases as we meet: The Runaway. In a mesh and leather corset top, black leather trousers, ornate eye makeup and chain-detailed belts, the performer takes a running start into highly physical movement that looks almost super-human as it has been sped up in editing. A strong tone shift happens as The Runaway stops to notice The Girl by the Lake.
As soft drones fade in over the sound of a babbling brook, The Girl by the Lake moves fluidly reaching, recoiling and creating ripples in the lake and her own movement. In moments of stillness, a sense of pondering or remembering emerges, punctuated by a poignant dampness. Quick cuts introduce us to a new visual vocabulary of reversing and blurring the image as the performer dances with a sense of searching or confusion. An interaction between The Girl by the Lake and our final character, The Ghost, thrusts us into yet another tone shift. Black and white, shaky and even sometimes inverted, the film takes an unpredictable turn in introducing this otherworldly character that we see running through the woods before finding a place backdropped by gorgeous, dominating mountains. This framing really calls upon the Twin Peaks aesthetic and The Ghost reminds me a bit of the character of Bertha from Charlotte Brontë’s, Jane Eyre. In these final minutes, she spins and spins until she begins ascending a hill. As the others in their bright colors turn to see, she descends the hill out of our sight; a beautiful moment recalling the characters’ staircase moments earlier in the film.
With strong visual themes, inventive movement and dynamic framing, In Her Skin, explores fashion, character development and our relationships with the environment and each other. The abstracted narrative leaves me with questions, but it’s okay because feels like a purposeful omission of information (Twin Peaks vibes). In only 15 minutes, In Her Skin, grabs your attention as it portrays fashionable, dynamic characters linked through space as they move through their stylish individual journeys.
In Kosta Karakashyan and Antonia Georgieva’s fashion film “In Her Skin,” what appear to be the banks of a mysterious lake become the isles of a sacred runway for five Bulgarian townswomen. Underneath the dream-score of bluesy brass and percussion are the striding heels of each woman, made-up lush before the mossy greenery. Each scene rings so out of place, like in the event of finding a siren walking on land… in fact, they are all sirens, luring watchers towards the water. Between the midnight-black leather gloves of the Housewife, the sapphire lips of the Femme Fatale, or the silver-studded cowboy boots of the Runway, each of them masters that dangerously hallucinogenic allure.
The music moans and whispers to the swan song of the Girl by the Lake, shrouded in white fur, her ginger hair damp, and her cheeks angelically pale. She appears the closest of them all to the water, her coattails ready to dive towards divinity. As she weaves patterns in the water with her fingertips, I am reminded of 19th century poet Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shalott.” The ballad describes a noblewoman stranded in a tower up the river from King Arthur’s castle, Camelot. “And by the moon the reaper weary, / Piling sheaves in uplands airy, / Listening, whispers, “‘Tis the fairy / Lady of Shalott.” (lines 1-4). Sadly, the Lady suffers a curse in which she cannot look up from her loom but only at the world through the reflection of a mirror. Frustrated, she brings about the curse by looking out a window, the mirror cracked edge to edge. The Lady finally perishes in a boat on her way to the palace gates.
The haunting stagnancy of the lake-water evokes a sense of being frozen before death. In this shaky memoire, emerges the Ghost, an undead maiden traipsing through her curls and an overgrown gown. I see through her eyes like a cracked mirror, the world in a grainy slumber where she both floats and flounders. Her gothic dance wafts over the water but leaks at the seams.
The directors of the film expertly conjure the lull of a dark age, but one left unmined of all its fantasies. They expose an unkempt imagination, as beguiling as the wilderness but as perilous as a free-fall through a dream. These characters are trapped in languor yet overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the lake, its splendor a blessed one but perhaps also a curse…