The Skin I Live In (2011)

Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Written by Pedro & Agustin Almodovar

My experience with the acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is limited. Having seen only two of his classic films I at least get the gist of his style and what to expect when it comes to a film like this. My first Almodovar film was one that was, in a way, forced upon me. I viewed Bad Education as part of a little game called Movie Dictator Club wherein someone else tells you a movie you have to watch and vice versa. Given the circumstances it was a unique experience which I couldn’t entirely comprehend at the time. It was strange, bizarre and a little sick to be honest, but the more I learned about Almodovar, the more I learned that his style was thus. So when I headed to the theater to see his new film, The Skin I Live In, I was a little more prepared this time, and so should you be if you decide to venture in to this film.

Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is a top notch surgeon who has just specialized a new type of skin which is thick enough, and different enough, to repel malaria mosquitoes, while also being extremely soft and beautiful. The scientific community is under the impression that his test subjects were mice, but the reality is that he has been testing his new biotechnology on a woman named Vera (Elena Anaya). It is soon learned that Vera has been a type of prisoner under Robert, who is slowly falling in love with her. Robert has been in a troubled state ever since his wife was badly burned in a car accident and his daughter was raped and psychologically broken at a friend’s wedding. His way of coping appears to be this twisted experiment.

This was not an easy film to take in, but at the same time that is what makes it a great film. After just seeing three of his films, I can confidently say that Almodovar is one of the boldest and most daring filmmakers I have seen, but he is spectacular because he manages to make it work and pull it off where others may insert the twisted just for a jump scare or the shock factor. The strongest aspect of the film is in the writing, and the casually paced story. Almodovar takes his time revealing the ins and outs of the film and is not worried about raising questions and not hurrying to answer them. During the film I was sitting there continually asking myself things like “but why?” and “so what?” But when the film ended, all my questions were answered and looking back, they were answered at all the right times for the film to have the right effect.

It is a sick and twisted story, there is no getting around that, and the implications behind the film are all a little disturbing and for that reason I can say that it will probably not rank among my favorite films of the year, but that is just my own personal reaction. I am more of a happy-go-lucky type of guy, but that is not to say I can’t appreciate the filmmaking, because I appreciate the hell out of this film. Almodovar and his team craft a wonderful film with great camera work and a script and pacing that is just astounding. Some people I am sure love Almodovar and think he is the best director working today, and they have every justification for their choice. Some styles are better suited for different people.

The whole film just comes off as extremely polished, and I do mean that in the best of ways. The acting is great from Banderas and Anaya. I was amazed at Anaya’s beauty in the film as well, which is obviously extremely natural, but also aided by some great make-up work as well. She pulls you in and seduces you, just as she does with Robert, before you can realize what is going on. It is probably not a film that I could sit down and watch many times, and I get that general vibe from Almodovar in general, but the filmmaking is undeniably great and I definitely look forward to getting into some more of his films in the future.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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