The Man Who Sold His Skin Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Among the October movie premieres is The Man Who Sold His Skin, a satirical drama about a refugee who agrees to become a living art object. The movie attracts attention with a plot inspired by a real story, as well as Monica Bellucci, who played a minor role.

The Man Who Sold His Skin movie meaning

Drama genre
Directed by Kauter Ben Khanyi
Starring Yahya Mahaney (Sam Ali), Monica Bellucci (Soraya), Dea Liana (Abir), Cohen De Bow (Jeffrey), Saad Lostan (Ziad), Darina Al Jundi (Sam’s mother), Christian Vadim (William) and others.
Studios Cinétéléfilms, Tanit Films, Twenty Twenty Vision Filmproduktion GmbH
Year of release 2020 (in Ukraine 2021)
IMDb Sites

Sam Ali plans to marry his girlfriend, but after a careless statement, which is mistaken for a protest slogan about freedom, the hero has to flee Syria. Some time later he learns that his fiancée has moved to Belgium, but he cannot follow her – the man is in refugee status on the territory of Lebanon. In despair, Sam agrees to the proposal of a famous artist who is looking for a volunteer for a new exhibition. The protagonist of the movie allows him to use his back as a canvas on which the tattoo artist draws a large picture. Now Sam will be able to get to Europe without hindrance – he will be allowed in as an expensive exhibit.

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2020, and in 2021 the tape competed for the Oscar among the contenders for the title of best foreign film (the statuette quite rightly went to the Danish drama Another Round Thomas Vinterberg).


The director of the movie, Kauter Ben Khanyi, wrote the script for the drama, taking a real-life case as a basis. In 2008, Belgian artist Wim Delvoie completed an artwork called “Tim,” which is the skin of a living man who agreed to adorn his back with a tattoo for money. He also signed a contract, committing to appear in museums as an object of contemporary art. The “work” was later sold at auction to a German collector who paid €150k (when the person with the tattoo dies, his skin will be removed, placed under a frame and sent to the buyer’s personal collection).

Kauter Ben Khanyi added the theme of forced migration to the story, turning the protagonist into a Syrian refugee. She also emphasized the meaning of the tattoo itself – the Syrian man agrees to have a Schengen visa inked on his back, which is ironic given his life situation.


When the main character finds himself in Belgium, the director begins to ridicule the world of contemporary art in every possible way. Under the criticism are ridiculous exhibits, fake connoisseurs of beauty and creators with a recognizable name, putting deep meanings into works that are actually worthless. A vivid representative of art deception is an artist who uses other people’s helplessness to achieve his goals. His assistant, who cold-bloodedly eliminates problems and cleverly exploits loopholes in the laws – played by Monica Bellucci (the actress does not appear on the screen as often as we would like – she got a minor role).

The idea behind The Man Who Sold His Skin is quite understandable and interesting in its own way. But for the film to make a proper impression, the viewer must sympathize with the protagonist, caught in a golden cage. Unfortunately, the character is written in such a way that his actions only repel, and the main motivation becomes too intrusive.


The satirical tone of the movie doesn’t always hit the intended target either. The movie gets too serious, or flirts with mockery, or suddenly turns into a romantic story, or tries to shock with an unexpected spectacle (physically repulsive and unbearably drawn out).

In short, the drama’s idea that a person can turn into a work of art by losing himself is extremely good, but the movie itself doesn’t evoke strong emotions.


A plot inspired by a real artwork; a satire on the modern art world; Monica Bellucci

Protagonist fails to evoke sympathy; the picture fails to settle on a tone; there is a physically repulsive moment


A satirical drama whose plot turns out to be more interesting than the movie itself.

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