Chained for Life
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.