The Skin I Live In (Spanish: La piel que habito), 2011.
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
Starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Jan Cornet.
An eminent plastic surgeon becomes obsessed with creating a new type of synthetic skin capable of withstanding any kind of damage.
The Skin I Live In is a masterfully created piece of film making. Part thriller, part revenge story, part romance, the film is a study on psychosexual development, gender changing, sexual identity, and the inner person; i.e. who we are beneath the skin which surrounds us.
The aim of my reviews is not to regurgitate a film’s plot and all of its twist and turns, but to tell you why or why not it is any good. To go into the detail of The Skin I Live In would be to spoil everything the film has in store for you. You should know as little of the plot as possible, but I will tell this much:
The film centres on the relationship between a surgeon (Antonio Banderas) and a woman he has prisoner in his mansion. She wears a skin-suit, practises yoga, and is kept under CCTV surveillance at all times. He is also in love with her. The second and third acts are told mostly in flashback, but by the time this comes you are entirely hooked as to the origins of how this situation came to be.
The result is something I’d not seen the like of before.
The characters are deeply disturbed. The surgeon is on a quest to create a replacement wife through the body of his prisoner, yet the woman wishes to remain in his world and it is her choice that she stays. The film pushes us to think about identity and what makes a person a person. Can one man change another in to someone else, and create a new identity to fill the void of their own lonliness, their own insecurities, their own demons?
Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar creates modern Frankenstein with sexual and psychological themes running throughout the film, making it one film which lasts long in the memory for its invention and philosophy as it does for its execution and enjoyment. The colours are vibrant, the frame always filled with detail, the camera movements are precise and patient yet he knows how to increase the tension when those scenes are needs. The wide angles in the hallways and ‘prison room’ give the surgeon’s house a characteristic quality, not just another set for action to take place.
The Skin I Live In is a rare film in which it belongs to no one particular genre yet remains as an excellent film throughout. Most films I see which cross several genres tend to be a disappointment as they fail to succeed in knowing what they are about or the audience they aim to reach. Almodóvar’s film is about so much more than the story or what happens on screen, and deserves repeated viewings if you can stomach the detail. It is a very adult film for adult audiences, and should be seen by people who wnat to get something from a cinema experience they usually wouldn’t expevt to take away. Like the best work of Stanley Kubrick, Almodóvar’s latest offering is multi-layered, challenging, absorbing, and rewarding.
VERDICT: 8.5 / 10 – This is Top 10 of 2011 potential.
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