The Skin I Live In (2011)

Director: Pedro Almodòvar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet.

Antonio Banderas sure has come a long way from being an animated Spanish stereotyped feline extra on Shrek 2. The situation may differ for other people, but it is this and his role as Zorro that I associate most strongly with him. It’s good to see that, in a movie such as this, he can still do some genuinely interesting work.

The Plot:
Brilliant plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Banderas) is obsessed with improving the quality of human life. He aims to use transgenesis to improve the qualities of human skin. His test subject: a beautiful and mysterious woman whom he keeps captive in his home.

The Skin I Live In bears striking similarities with the 1960 French film Eyes Without a Face. Both feature deranged scientists, hell-bent on improving the quality of life with the use of synthetics. However, whereas Dr. Gènessier of Eyes Without a Face had a somewhat noble, if not perverted, motive for his actions, Dr. Ledgard reasons are purely obsessive and perverse.

Ledgard is completely enthralled with the notion of human beauty. This is blatantly obvious from the very beginning, as we see his home is decorated with artistic works, all of which feature the female form is some kind of sexual, or alluring, position. However, it is never natural human beauty that he loves, but a man-made concept. He holds the life of his guinea pig, Vera (Anaya), in his hands because of his experiments. This is expressed literally several times in the film, as he physically lifts her constantly.

There is a great deal of concepts conveyed through images in the film. The female form is constantly on display, but it is always a human construct of some kind. The paintings, a depiction of the female form. Female mannequins and dolls are on display everywhere, all designed with a patchwork motif to further enhance the idea of constructed beauty. Even Ledgard himself gazes upon Vera through a tv screen, yet in early scenes of the film, he avoids looking directly at her, before she is ‘complete’.

Ledgard’s obsession is so intense, it overcomes extreme normative boundaries, of which become apparent at the film’s biggest reveal. He becomes intensely engrossed in his work, to an extent that goes beyond shocking.

This is an unsettling and uncomfortable film. It is of the horror genre, but one that harks back to early days of horror. There are no sudden scares, or even much of a feeling of malevolence. It is simply horrifying concepts brought to life onscreen, unflinchingly.

The cast each hand in an impressive performance. They cannot be faulted in any way, yet little stands out as being particularly impressive. Banderas is very restrained throughout and its easy to find yourself waiting for him to snap. He is deadpan for the most part, and this makes his few emotional scenes particularly powerful.

Anaya is also convincing as the test subject, who seems detached for the most part, but comes alive with emotion towards the close of the film.

Overall:

The Skin I Live In is a film that boasts an excellent script, fine directing and an inspired concept. The only thing holding it back from being a masterpiece is the performances. To be clear, all the cast deliver very well. However, all the characters feel restrained, which deprives the film of the emotional punch it really needs. There is quality and faultless acting to be found here, it is just unfortunate that it is not particularly memorable. The imagery and plot, however, more than makes up for this, as it will remain in memory long after the credits roll.

Awful Rating: 8/10

The things the love of a mad man can do…” – Marilia

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Published in: on September 22, 2011 at 12:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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