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Chained for Life

Made by and starring disfigured people, Aaron Schimberg’s dextrous, darkly comedic film-within-a-film makes you think about cinematic representation without offering simple resolutions.

Dir-Scr Aaron Schimberg
Prod Vanessa McDonnell, Daniel Patrick Carbone, Matt Petock, Dan Schoenbrun, Zachary Shedd
With Jess Weixler, Adam Pearson, Charlie Korsmo
USA
2018
91min
Prod Co Grand Motel Films

Aaron Schimberg’s impressive second feature is his response, as a filmmaker with facial deformity, to cinematic portrayals of disfigured people, from Freaks to The Elephant Man. Simultaneously empathetic and sardonic, Chained for Life’s multi-layered meta narrative casts Jess Weixler (Teeth) as Mabel, a well-intentioned Hollywood star. She takes the role of a blind woman in a hospital-based horror movie about abnormalities, directed by an egomaniacal German auteur. As shooting progresses, Mabel gradually falls for friendly British co-star Rosenthal, played by Under the Skin actor Adam Pearson, who has neurofibromatosis. Writer-director Schimberg challenges you to think about representation and exploitation whilst refusing to offer up any simplistic answers, while also paying homage to previous film-within-a-film-practitioners from Fassbinder to the Muppets.

Manish Agarwal

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