by Melody Gilbert


The subjects remove part of a limb, mostly a leg, and mostly the left leg. They then feel more complete, more whole.

This documentary was fascinating for its subject matter. These people belong to a type of disorder not yet listed or recognized, and yet there may be thousands world-wide who suffer from it. For those among the audience interested in body manipulations, voluntary amputation really gets you thinking. Is the point to remove a foreign body? To get rid of something so that it can’t be seen any longer? To take care of a mental preoccupation and obsession (could these people be sublimating or displacing a deeper desire for gender change? It didn’t seem so). Is it for some the fascination with a prosthesis, the artificial attachment being the obsession, a physical extension more desirable than a real leg? Is there a left/right brain connection that causes most of these people to prefer the left over the right? And why is their obsession so particular: this leg only, and up to here only….

You’ll come away with sympathy for these people. There’s nothing abnormal about them at all. They desire to get rid of something in the way that you desire to get rid of a few pounds. Only that somewhere inside, that something which is their own has become an object, an “it,” a foreign body. As if the leg to be removed were already an artificial leg. J.G. Ballard, are you listening?