- Gareth Crook
The Skin I Live In (2011)
I’m back on Spanish films courtesy of Almodóvar. Robert (Antonio Banderas) is a surgeon. A plastic surgeon. A rather good one by all accounts, if not brilliant and potentially a little crazy. We quickly learn that he’s created a new artificial skin, one resistant to burns and insect bites. Only problem is, his methods aren’t exactly ethical. Using pig cells to mutate human. That’s not the only unusual aspect of Robert’s world. The other is Vera, his secret test subject (Elena Anaya) who lives locked in his home surgery, wearing nothing but a heavy nylon tan coloured bodysuit. She’s a personal project. Driven by the death of his wife, but the secrecy is hiding more than the piggy cells, there’s a lot more to the back story. Almodóvar likes to lay it on thick and this is no exception, as details of Robert’s family emerge, with characters true relations revealed and half brothers dressed as tigers. The groundwork is being laid, even if large sections of it will be rendered redundant. It’s a tragic story. Infidelity, car crashes and suicides. If Robert wasn’t nuts to begin with, these things certainly explain how he’s come to be who he is. An obsessive opium smoking Frankenstein. It feels a bit convoluted, but the structure holds together as we delve further into Robert’s past. We learn of Robert’s daughter Norma’s problems, after her mother’s accident, then compounded by a rape attack. The attacker is a young pill popping Vincente. Who soon finds himself chained up by a revengeful Robert. Of course, we know he’s gonna end up on the surgeons table, as the two quite separate parts of this narrative smash together. At its simplest, it’s a twisted revenge thriller, but at its core... well it’s a twisted revenge thriller. That’s not to say it’s bad, I kinda enjoyed it, but it’s not easy to connect to and does feel a bit overblown considering the simple premise. The cast though are largely pretty good and even though it peters out with a slightly pointless coda I’d still recommend watching if you like Almodòvar’s other work.