The Skin I Live In (2011)

Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet, Marisa Paredes,
La piel que habito is a movie starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, and Jan Cornet. A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a...
  • 7.6 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Thierry Jonquet, Agustín Almodóvar, Writer:
  • Pedro Almodóvar, Director:
  • Esther García, Producer:

Trailer:

9 / 10

A disturbing and thought provoking film

A fascinating and powerful departure for Almodovar, or perhaps more accurately more an terrific hybrid of the best of his old and new. This has the darker, more actively perversely disturbing and violent themes of some of his early work like 'Matador' but shot and directed with the far smoother and more mature hand he has developed over the years. It also uses the more complex and fractured time structure style of Almodovar's more recent work, to great effect.

In the end its a gorgeous looking, philosophically complex mystery and horror film. Although not gory, this is a disturbing work, both on a literal story level, and also for the questions it raises about identity, love, sado-masochism, and passion run amok.

These themes are all Almodovar touchstones, but delivered here with a visually stunning icy touch, and with much more complete logic than in his early works, which often felt less fully thought through, and had more frustrating plot holes and character leaps.

Not a 'scary' film, but a creepy, moody and highly effective one. A dark fairy tale as told by, say Stanley Kubrick.

It's good to see Antonio Banderas reunited with Almodovar, and he delivers a wonderfully complex and quirky modern day Dr. Frankenstein.

Less emotional than my two very favorite Almodovar films (Talk to Her, All About My Mother), but its exciting to see this extremely talented film maker continue to evolve and grow, and I think this represents work that can stand among his best.

8 / 10

It will make your skin crawl...

Pedro Almodovar is not a conventional filmmaker by any means. His films openly explore subjects many acclaimed directors fear to tread and absorb in their whole entire careers, but what is always guaranteed with Almodovar is a sense of wonderment and the unexpected, and 'The Skin I Live In' ('La piel que habito') is no different. Based briefly on Thierry Jonquet's 2003 novel 'Mygale,' Almodovar's latest film is a delightful and refreshing combination of multiple genres including drama, thriller and body horror. It's shockingly sincere, beautifully horrifying and has an appeal that will keep the audiences eyes locked towards the events on-screen until the final credits roll.

Dr Robert Lesgard (Antonio Banderas) is a renowned surgeon who is attempting to achieve a breakthrough in bio-medical sciences by creating a synthetic skin through transgenisis. Classified as a horrific mutation by some, and acknowledged by Robert as an innovation, his experiments come at a price. His human test subject is a beautiful woman named Vera (Elena Anaya) who is contained within his home, and cared for by his head servant Marilia (Marisa Paredes). Vera is not like other women, she wears a skin-coloured suit made out of fabric instead of clothes, she is constantly watched by Robert and Marilia, and she never leaves her room, which only Robert himself holds the key too. What follows is a startling journey of discovery as the narrative unravels a story of disturbing past, present and future events; transforming the lives of all those involved.

Beginning in Toldeo in 2012, Almodovar utilizes a constantly underused and under-appreciated device in the nonlinear narrative. He provides the audience with one perception of each character before returning in flashback during the second act to six years previously where further events are explained and through this, the audience's initial observations of the characters become undermined and drastically altered. He then digresses between past and present at will building a comprehensive picture of each character involved as the story develops revealing some startling and disturbing discoveries. This decision to structure the film in this way, also adequately supplements Almodovar's need to explore his key themes including sexual identity, and the nature of the moral of ethics of the human soul after it has been literally stripped bare.

Coupled with the beautiful cinematography from Almodovar's long-time collaborator Jose Luis Alcaine and an original and complimentary score by Alberto Iglesias, 'The Skin I Live In' also becomes an example of technically proficient filmmaking which works alongside the performances of the likes of Banderas and Anaya, as well as the slickly written script which keeps the audience on their toes until the final curtain has been dropped. Pedro Almodovar is undoubtedly one of the most successful auteurs of the last few decades, and with 'The Skin I Live In' he shows that he can almost touch upon a new genre, in the form of body horror genre-hybrid, whilst also retaining all the previous elements, themes and techniques which have made his films the deep-seated critically successful films that they are.

10 / 10

Almodovar does body horror...but not really

As a longtime fan of Pedro Almodovar's films, I will admit the trailer for his latest film The Skin I Live In left me somewhat baffled. Having now seen the film however, I see the method in his madness. The trailer tells you little or nothing about the film but bombards the viewer with crazy images which are in retrospect probably designed to confuse. The trailer serves the purpose of telling the viewer very little of what the film is about while titillating with striking visuals. A bold move but an effective one, because the less you know about this film going in the better.

With that in mind, I'll keep this review short and will try not to give anything away. Antonio Banderas plays a rather unhinged scientist who is keeping a beautiful young woman prisoner in his home while using her as a human guinea pig for a new type of synthetic human skin. That's about as much information as you need. As the story unfolds, petal by petal in that flower-like way we've become accustomed to seeing from Almodovar, each scene adds wonder and flavour to an already robust set-up. Moving at a break-neck pace, not a frame is without beauty and not a second is wasted without pushing the story along. This screenplay is extremely polished and beautifully nuanced.

As usual, cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine delivers beautifully vibrant visuals, but unlike other Almodovar films, this palette is decidedly less colourful, sticking mainly to Cronenbergian metallic colours fused with fleshy tones but with the odd gash of vibrant colour. It is as beautiful to behold as any other Almodovar film, but perhaps less garish.

In a film that relies on ambiguity in so many ways the cast here must be commended. Delicate balances are achieved by all concerned and it's wonderful to see Antonio Banderas settling into the rather unsettling role of Dr. Robert Ledgard. He exudes the same charisma and sexual bravura that made him famous but without the least whiff of sex symbol status coming through in the performance. He is creepy, strangely alluring and underplays the "mad scientist" bit admirably. Elena Anayas also impresses in a very challenging performance both physically and emotionally, both of which are perfectly effective as her story unfolds. A brilliant character who may not have been so impressive in the hands of a less capable actress. The camera intimately caresses her face and body throughout and she steadfastly rises to the challenge of being as beautiful a muse as a director could ask for.

It is unlikely that Almodovar will win over any new fans with The Skin I Live In but he will surely satisfy his already massive fanbase. A dark, thoughtful, frightening piece but never shying away from the heights of melodrama that Almodovar is known for, this sits beautifully on the line between Cronenberg at his best and a crazy soap opera.

Unique, Gothic and delightfully melodramatic! I love it!

http://charlenefilmblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/skin-i-live-in.html

8 / 10

Hitchcock Would Have Been Proud of This

The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito, 2:00, R) — other: drama, 3rd string, original

Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar has a just reputation for taking women seriously in his films. His latest effort (as usual in Spanish with English subtitles) is no exception, even tho he gives most of the screen time to his most accomplished discovery and frequent star, Antonio Banderas (seemingly one of the few Hispanic actors whom Americans will tolerate in a lead role), playing the brilliant and innovative plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard. This is a deadly serious role, in marked contrast to Banderas's other current star turn as the voice of Puss in Boots.

The female lead, Elena Anaya, plays Vera Cruz (yes), Ledgard's stunningly gorgeous patient, experimental subject, apparent captive, and ? well, here Almodóvar (who co-wrote the screenplay with brother Agustín) gets a bit coy. Is she a manikin, an Eliza Doolittle to Ledgard's Henry Higgins, a Sabina Spielrein to his Carl Jung, possibly a creature to his Frankenstein? Or maybe none of the above? We know only that she seems devoted to him, tho he is unresponsive to her charms.

Vera is confined to the big bedroom, elegantly furnished, where she does her yoga exercises dressed in a flesh-colored body stocking. Ledgard has the only key to the room, and he always keeps her locked in. He himself stays in the smaller bedroom next door, where he watches her intently on a wall-sized video screen. All her food and other needs are delivered from the kitchen via a dumbwaiter, and she communicates with only 2 people: Robert in person, and the housekeeper via intercom.

Ledgard is a widower, and we see in flashback that his wife Gal suffered a terrible car accident and fire, leaving her horribly disfigured even after Robert's virtuoso surgical work and devoted care. But even after all his efforts, Gal is unable to stand her pain, weakness, and ugliness, and she commits suicide. Unfortunately, it's right in front of their tweenage dotter Norma (Blanca Suárez), who is driven into hysterics and a nervous breakdown by the sight.

Ledgard, as one of the world's leading reconstructive surgeons, does not lack for cash, so he devotes the next several years to his twin obsessions, coaxing his dotter back from the precipice of madness and developing a graftable artificial skin, which he somewhat ghoulishly dubs Gal, a combination of human and pig genes that's highly resistant to burns, cuts, and punctures. Such an epidermis would have saved his beloved wife, he reasons, and this alone justifies his transgressing the ethical boundaries against transgenics. (This is the only science-fictional element in the film, and it's not much of a stretch from what modern medicine is actually capable of doing, which is why I categorize it as essentially a psychodrama.)

There are 3 other characters of note: Ledgard's housekeeper Marilia (Marisa Paredes), an older woman with secrets of her own; her wastrel son Zeca (Roberto álamo), who pays an unwelcome visit; and studly young Vicente (Jan Cornet), son of and apprentice to the local dressmaker, who takes a shine to now-teenage Norma as she shyly tries to work her way back into normal society.

We learn most of the above during the first half hour, which leaves us wondering just what on Earth is going on here. The remainder of the film slowly pulls aside one curtain after another to fill us in. And that is all I will say on the subject. You'll have to see the rest for yourself.

And you should.

7 / 10

A full-on masterpiece.

Pedro Almodovar has created a daring and entirely unique masterpiece, a word that I do not use lightly or often. The Skin I Live In has a lot that of aspects that feel very Almodovar, but there's also a lot of Cronenberg here as well, and with the latter being my favorite director it's no surprise that I fell in love with it quickly. The film is a startling, wild study into a world of obsession, revenge and the complexities of the human flesh. Almodovar has really outdone himself here, crafting a tale of wicked intensity and rarely met eccentricity.

The structure here is one of it's more interesting aspects and yet another film this year that isn't told in a strictly linear fashion. We first meet Doctor Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) in the present day, as he works tirelessly on perfecting a new skin for his subject, the young and beautiful Vera (Elena Anaya). Almodovar establishes us in this present day world, complete with a very Almodovar subplot (a man in a tiger suit comes to the house and brings some trouble) and a lot of baggage for Ledgard. We get to know these people, become intrigued by what brought them to their current state and that we jump back six years to explore this character further.

It's a surprising jump and I must admit that it got me off guard at first, but as we spend more and more time in the past building up to the present I slowly came to terms with what Almodovar was doing. He gave us a stake in the present day world so that when he took us into the past it becomes about more than just laying out the facts. We already have a perception on Ledgard and a curiosity into understanding the events that bring him to where we met him, so the film becomes as much of a fascinating game of putting these puzzle pieces together as it is a character study and all-around masterwork of high drama.

Slowly the pieces start to come together and I found myself constantly trying to figure out what happened in this world, how these events in the past connect to the present day we were introduced to. When we finally get our answer...stunned...amazed...jaw-unhinged...none of these words can even begin to describe what happened to my mind. This is a twist that doesn't exist for shock value by any means but absolutely sent me to the floor, one of the most shocking and unexpected moves in cinema history as far as I'm concerned. It threw me for a major loop and everything I had come to perceive about these characters and their world was altered in an instant. Everything became a thousand times more fascinating and complex with the use of one simple word.

As I said before, this is a piece of the most miraculous and bold high-drama, a world where anything is possible but nothing feels out of place. That is perhaps the most shocking aspect of the film itself, that Almodovar gives us a story filled to the brim with melodrama but none of it feels contrived or too weird or too much. Everything feels totally natural and believable in the world that Almodovar establishes for us. His ability to make this happen is nothing short of extraordinary. Of course he doesn't do it alone and there are a lot of other aspects to the film that contribute to making it work on every conceivable level, to bring us into this incredible world.

Of course there are the performances, which are just a dream on their own. I've never been a fan of Antonio Banderas and I've honestly been hesitant to watch films just based on his involvement, but he delivers something here that I never knew he was capable of. Ledgard is an incredibly difficult character to pull off because our perception of him changes drastically throughout the film, but Banderas masters it without a single hitch. There was never a false move, never a moment where I didn't believe this character was capable of doing what he was doing. He is charming, intelligent, deranged and intimidating, unfolding layer after layer as we go on. It's a remarkable achievement in both character and performance. The other performances work very well to support Banderas and Almodovar's work here, particularly from the absolutely gorgeous Elena Anaya. She is all things sympathetic, manic, intriguing and sensual and when we come back to the present day after understanding what brought her to this place, she takes on a whole new life of internal chaos and complexity. For all of her outward expression it becomes a very internal performance and she is sensational here.

The technical aspects are all on key, all of them impressing without taking the spotlight away from the story, but the one thing that really left a mark was the phenomenal score. If it wasn't for Hanna, this score would be a runaway victory for my personal win right now. Rarely have I seen music so well-utilized for the atmosphere a director strives to establish. The high-wire drama meets it's ally with this music, a soaring operatic work that brings us into this world so completely. It swept me away and completely engulfed me in this world that Almodovar established. The score is a perfect fit for the film because it captures exactly what the overall product is; a brilliant and original opera of miraculous proportions. This is one of those films that I wasn't expecting a lot from and it just blew me away at every level.