“I believe that free will leads you to your destiny.” These were the words of Victoria Beckham in her interview with Vogue for their highly popular video series 73 Questions. I believe she simplified an age-old debate about what destiny really is: do we really have control over our own, or do we simply rely on circumstance to make our decisions for us? Despite all this, one thing is for certain: humans possess amazing intellect to discern truth and reason, and a heart and soul to fully experience the beautiful moments that make life worth living. These innate tools are not meant to make us passive spectators of reality; rather, they are to be used to shape our own reality, and thus, our own destiny. Perhaps this is the entire thesis of the film I Lost My Body, a French animated film by Jérémy Clapin; the protagonist, quite literally, puts his destiny into his own hand in this bizarre yet poignant film about finding love, coping with loss, and learning to move on from the past.
The film is split between the perspective of our protagonist, a young man named Naoufel, and his severed hand, as both experience their own share of adversities told in striking parallelism. Interwoven with the present are Naoufel’s memories from his childhood, evoking in him feelings of longing, sadness, and regret. But even with this wave of emotions, hope found its way into his dreary life in the form of Gabrielle, the only other person who he felt could understand him with an uncanny depth; unlike the people who have surrounded him his whole life, who engages with him only insofar as to acknowledge his existence but not Naoufel himself. Quite persistently, almost to the point of being “chivalrous” as he called himself, Naoufel eagerly pursued Gabrielle, only to find out that his persistence would become his downfall. But it is at the depths of despair that Naoufel is finally able to redeem himself, both from his past and his present.
What I admire about this film is the director’s simplicity and authenticity in his storytelling; but most of all, I admire how he understood all too well the complexities of human beings, which is probably why it wasn’t difficult to empathize with Naoufel. Even with such an unusual yet simple story, the film managed to provide a compelling glimpse into what makes humans and their experiences so interesting. While Naoufel tries to continue with his life while also struggling with his troubled past, his hand, on the other hand, does everything it could to be reunited with its owner. It was strange to feel empathy for a hand; but by the time the film draws near its end, you’ll finally understand how significant the hand was in the grander scheme of things: it represented Naoufel’s preoccupation with the past, how he couldn’t seem to let go of his deep-seated regrets, and the pain it caused him that he kept in his heart.
Like how persistent and unrelenting the hand was in its desire to be back with its owner, our past and our regrets will keep finding ways to manifest itself into our present lives, whether we know it or not. But it’s probably not the past itself that we want to get rid of, but the pain. Often, the pain gets too much to handle that we resort to other alternatives to cope. In Naoufel’s case, he was so numb that he got used to it and treated it almost like a companion, simply accepting what was and what is, but not entirely overcoming it yet. In one of the highlights of the film, he asked Gabrielle what she thought about the idea of destiny: is it possible to evade it completely if you do something completely unexpected? And that’s when it hit me: all this time, Naoufel felt like he’s trapped by his destiny. He felt as if no matter what he does, he’s meant to live a tragic life, and he desperately wants to get out of it. But by the end, he, quite literally, took a leap of faith, hoping to escape the path that destiny seemingly wants him to take. He finally felt free; it wasn’t destiny that kept him from moving on and reliving the pain. It was himself.
We are who we are because of the decisions we make. Although it’s tempting to rely on fate to make our choices for us, we must ultimately realize that our destiny will depend on who we choose to become. That’s why I believe it was necessary for Naoufel to lose his hand; it pushed him to the edge, to the point of no return. But for what it’s worth, it was his way out of the prison that overtook him.
Life is not as harsh as it seems. It is simple and beautiful, and it always offers hope to whoever is willing. It takes courage, heart, and persistence to realize that the key in finding freedom and happiness lies within ourselves.
I Lost My Body is streaming on Netflix.