Touch (2011): an exploration of sensuality through the sense of ‘touch’


This American drama directed by Minh Duc Nguyen in 2011 simply reveals to the spectator a direct relationship with the characters thanks to the primary sense of touch.

A mechanic wants his wife back because she doesn’t want him to touch her anymore. His hands are black with soot. Fortunately, he will meet a shy Vietnamese-American manicurist who will try to help him but without staying indifferent toward him…

In order to make the spectator aware of the complexity and the importance of the sense of touch in the film, the director choose to include many close-ups on the hands of the characters which provide a sensual dress to the viewer. Thomas Elsaesser explains how the sense of touch in cinema has an impact on the viewer: “Skin also leads to close up in its dramatization of scale and size: on the one hand skin is everywhere around us, exceeds us as an individual, and the other hand, its particular grain and structure is not visible to the naked eye.”

Furthermore, Elsaesser says that “With respect to cinema, the positions centered on skin and contact concur to the extend that they all accord more significance than previous theories to the body in relation between screen and spectator.” (116) In this case, the spectator feels observer, participant and feel empathy at the same time.

In fact, how is it possible to think about skin in films? Showing the skin in films often goes with the shift of touch which is a way to express and feel different sensations in cinema. As Elsaesser T. says “ Even if the body is often forgotten or not consciously experienced by spectators while watching a film, it nevertheless represents the irreducible condition of the possibility of sensory and aesthetic experience.”(p116)

Here is the trailer.


Elsaesser, T. and  Hagener, M. (2015). “Cinema as Skin: Body and Touch” in Film Theory: An Introduction Through the Senses. London: Routledge.

2 thoughts on “Touch (2011): an exploration of sensuality through the sense of ‘touch’

  1. This is a good attempt as we are yet to talk about this topic. So being proactive is very good, so is doing the reading for the class. I do think, however, you could engage a little more with the topic at hand here. The trailer does not give us much to work with in terms of how the film focuses on the experience of touch. This is not simply showing touch but turning your eyes into organs of touch. Perhaps that could be an aspect you could say a few words in relation to this film?


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