After months of anticipation, I caught a screening of Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film The Skin I Live Friday night. Like many of his previous films, The Skin I Live In tackled betrayal, deception, strained familial relations, sexual identity, and death in the twisted fashion that I have come to expect from an Almodóvar film. (For a more straightforward review of The Skin I Live In, read my friend Diana’s post. We took a class on Almodóvar back in the day and saw The Skin I Live In with another friend from our class. Mount Holyoke film studies forever!)
Antonio Banderas, in his sixth collaboration with Almodóvar, Banderas plays Robert, a plastic surgeon who has discovered a type of skin that can withstand any sort of damage. He claims that he made this discovery while using mice as test subjects. In actuality Robert has performed countless experimental procedures on a mysterious patient named Vera (Elena Anaya), who he keeps locked away in his spacious Toledo estate with the help of loyal servant Marilia (Marisa Paredes). Who is this patient? Through a series of flashbacks, the dark and sadistic way Vera ended up Robert’s patient is revealed.
I found several aspects of this film to be fascinating. Antonio Banderas’ performance, which one critic compared to Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock’s films, is wonderfully creepy. Almodóvar’s approach to rape, gender identity, and female relationships is once again prevolent in The Skin I Live In. And then there is the loyal yet possessive maternal figure and the use of the Spanish countryside in this film compared to his other films set in cities. All of this works to contributes to what is Almodóvar’s first real horror film of sorts. (I personally cringe any time I see shots of axes, needles, and other tools, even if they are oddly beautiful, thanks to Almodóvar.)
A scene of personal interest is when Robert and his daughter Norma attend a wedding. Within this scene there are two songs performed by Spanish singer Concha Buika and I was immediately struck by her presence.