Friday, November 4, 2011


THE SKIN I LIVE IN will be a film that people will automatically compare to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS; with its creepy atmosphere, detached skin, captive women and a brilliant but deranged doctor. The comparisons would be fair, but SKIN is a film that still manages to stand on its own; on its own as one of the most disturbing films ever made.

Doctor Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is a brilliant surgeon who has lost his wife in a fiery car crash, and his two daughters to suicide. Using the loss of his family as motivation, the good doctor throws his life into helping burn victims reconstruct their faces with brilliant muscle and skin reformation. Robert perfects his technique on Vera (played by the stunningly beautiful Elena Anaya), a woman that he is keeping captive in his mansion. Robert’s humanitarian efforts are a cover, as he has reconstructed his dead wife out of the person that Vera used to be.

SKIN begins as Robert’s story, as he uses his pain and tragic loss to fuel his medical efforts. The story unfolds using a non-linear method, as the past and present constantly flip back and forth. As the movie moves forward, the story (literally) changes. The focus shifts from Robert’s motivations to who Vera used to be, and who she is now. Vera and Robert’s stories run parallel, with Vera’s carrying a heavy and relevant weight throughout. Who she is/was unfolds slowly, and when the realization sinks in…..whoa daddy….

Director Pedro Almodovar makes some brilliant and interesting stylistic choices here. Not only is the non-linear method perfect, but the tension and creepiness is constant thanks to some well-timed music and clever camerawork. His eye fills the frame with hints and nudges towards the doctor’s motivations and secrets, and the film overall has the look of a 1960’s Bond; it is chock full of beautiful women, hot cars, and gorgeous vistas. Almodovar also manages to make the viewer squirm over simple things like the snapping-on of surgical gloves.

SKIN is sub-titled, so it’s difficult to judge the acting as far as line-delivery. But besides that it is clear that Banderas is perfect. He is evil but in pain, and he lets the viewer know that all the time. The stunningly beautiful Elena Anaya (has this blogger mentioned she is stunningly beautiful?) is also convincing; so convincing that we almost don’t notice when she’s nude for half the film. Almost.

The identity of Vera is not revealed by way of a boom-bang twist with loud noises and over-orchestration, and is instead slowly revealed in bites. In fact, a clever viewer may be able to figure it out around the three-quarter mark, or earlier. But let’s be clear that’s not a flaw in the film, for the filmmakers obviously intended who Vera is/was to be subtlety let out. That way, the viewer will have to look at the character in a new light for the last quarter, and be disturbed enough to want a cleansing shower right away. It’s that type of fucked-up-ness that makes THE SKIN I LIVE IN an unsettling, but great movie.


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