Madagascar Skin

Starring: John Hannah and Bernard Hill
Fabulous Films & Fremantle Home Entertainment

RRP: 12.99
Certificate: 15
Available 12 September 2005

Harry is a man with a problem, born with a birthmark that covers his face in the shape of Madagascar. The mark has become Harry's personal wall behind which he finds himself trapped, through self consciousness; he is unable to experience the simple pleasure of just being with another. He longs to claw his way past his introspective homosexual nature but when he tries the worst thing happens to him, people look at him. Fleeing the city he takes himself to an isolated spot. Chance brings him to dig a man named Flint out of the sand; saving him from his would be murderers. As their relationship develops Flint tries to dig beneath Harry's self imposed exile...

Madagascar Skin (1995) is not an easy film to categorise; it's a serious slice of film with its own internal structure. Part comedy part tragedy, the film explores the idea of surfaces and what hides beneath. It is no consequence that Harry rescues Flint by digging him out of the sand. With only his head showing Harry must dig beneath the surface to free Flint. In their subsequent relationship Flint repays the debt by helping Harry to dig beneath his own surface and come to terms with the person within. Two unlikely displaced fugitives, Flint from the police and Harry from society, find affection and acceptance in their unlikely relationship.

Harry is played by John Hannah, better known for his lighter comedy roles in Four Weddings and a Funeral and the two Mummy films, it takes a little while to accept him in this dystrophic role. It's a measure of his acting ability that you soon forget his more comic personas. His journey from trapped self hatred to final acceptance, of himself, plays out convincingly - plucking at the audiences heart strings along the way. His scar and his homosexuality, both of which he perceives as barriers, are surmounted leading him to an existential freedom that he previously could not imagine.

Bernard Hill has appeared in over seventy television and cinema films, though at present is best known for his role of King Theoden in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's hard to fault his performance here. The consummate professional he steals many of the scenes which he shares with John Hanna. The rest of the cast also play their parts well with no real naff standout moments.

The print isn't too bad considering its age, though there is some print damage evident, but not so much as to spoil what is otherwise an excellent film. Sound is stereo, and there are few extras evident. If there is a criticism it's that the film is a little too dark for your average audience, at points the film feels unrelenting. Otherwise this is well worth a look.

Charles Packer

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