Pedro Almodóvar is the most internationally acclaimed Spanish director and writer known to modern day cinema. His legacy, including All About My Mother, Talk to Her and Volver, left his latest feature The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito), starring Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, with a great deal to live up to.
Knowing that the latest addition to the saga of Almodóvar — renowned for his soap opera-type drama and emotion, odd-ball characters, complex storylines, twisted plots, dark humour and Mediterranean colours — was to be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Boxing Day was the only thing that kept me going through the midst of all the ‘Christmas cheer’.
The plot centres around a successful surgeon (Banderas) who is experimenting with reproducing skin cells to assist in the rejuvenation process of burn victims. His questionable medical ethics lead him to be ordered to desist from any further advancements by his superiors, but in true ‘mad scientist’ fashion these orders are ignored, leading us into an intricate back-story of a series of events which seem at first disjointed. As the plot thickens, the loose ends are woven magnificently by the writer’s talent until the penny drops and the audience finds a new kind of horror to deal with.
From the opening scenes it’s already apparent that this film will make you uncomfortable, and as it progresses be aware that any discomfort will be multiplied with a concoction of genetic experimentation, mental instability, violence and sexual deviance.
In contrast to some of Almodóvar’s previous pictures, The Skin I Live In is more emotionally distant and cold, which leaves the viewer somewhat disconnected from empathising with the characters. However, the enjoyability and the progression of the film are not affected by this factor too greatly, and in hindsight the ideas portrayed might not have been as powerful had they been complicated by sentiment.
While some characters are not explored in great detail and seem a little surplus to the main storyline, the main actors’ performances are sheer perfection, and Elena Anaya’s execution of a deeply troubled young woman will stay with you long after the credits roll.
All in all, my anticipation and expectations towards the release of The Skin I Live In were surpassed in almost all fields, with a great twist, marvellous script and controversial subject matter. However, the disjointed iciness of the character make-up is something which did detract from the overall engrossment in the film. Despite a couple of imperfections Pedro Almodóvar’s latest exploit is a success, and a must-see for the not-so-faint-hearted.
The Skin I Live In (2011), directed by Pedro Almodóvar, is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox, certificate 15.