Thursday, December 8, 2011

La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In) (2011)

Seen: At the Kendall Square Landmark Cinema in Cambridge.

Oh Pedro Almodóvar, I haven't seen all of your films but I can determine a few of your favorite topics, including haunted pasts and transgender folk. The Skin I Live In is a multifaceted thriller centering around Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), a pioneering plastic surgeon who keeps a human guinea pig (Elena Anaya) locked up in his house on whom to experiment with skin grafts. Gradually his past tragedies come to light through flashbacks, and his darkness eventually proves to be all-consuming insanity.

I'm going to do my best to not give any spoilers, but if you're worried then just believe me that it's good and go into it without knowing anything.

With a controlled, deliberate shooting style and a constant air of menace, The Skin I Live In is an utterly engrossing film packed with a series of narrative and emotional twists that gradually escalate until the very end. Almodóvar is smart to give us this story in pieces, suggesting certain outcomes (the opening hints at a science-fiction angle that turns out to be a red herring) and masking others. It is intense- almost overly so- at points, with a number of cringe-worthy sex scenes and nail-biting situations, but at other times it moves along slowly as it focuses closely on these dark characters. And of course everything looks impeccable thanks to the director's astonishing color sense and style.

I think this may be the first time I've seen Antonio Banderas act in his native Spanish, and it seemed to give him a kind of seriousness, though of course that is also tied to the character of Robert, a bit of a mad scientist with myriad tragedies driving him slowly insane. Banderas is pretty awesome in the role, understated but also fierce. I was also impressed with Elena Anaya, who has the difficult task of playing a person who has been given a completely different body and must force herself to become comfortable with it.

This movie is just... masterful, I guess is the word.


PS I forgot to say how excited I was to see the art of Louise Bourgeois featured so prominently! Her work is fantastic.

Pair This Movie With: Maybe Incendies? Foreign thriller with lots of interesting twists and turns? Yeah.


  1. Totally agree with you that it's best to go into this one knowing as little about it as possible to maximize the impact of the plot twists. When I realized who Vera was, I actually gasped and said "Oh, no!" - which was not at all disruptive because my friend and I were literally the only two people in the theater.

  2. Brilliant review. I can't wait to see this again, to catch all the little details and clues from the beginning.