There is something nightmarishly unsettling about Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s latest Hitchcockian thriller, The Skin I Live In. Murder, rape, death, medical experiments, violence, sex and suicide are just the tip of the iceberg in this perverse Frankenstein inspired tale that is bound to disturb even the bravest viewers. Take my word for it, it’s that bizarre!
Like The Crying Game and Boxing Helena before it, The Skin I Live In is one of the films that have to keep the plot secretive in order to work. Tip toeing around the psychological story, trying not to giveaway any surprises, this much can be said:
An obsessed, unhinged, genius plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas), who is haunted by the tragic death of his wife (who became a burn victim after a horrific car accident), creates a synthetic skin that can withstand damage. He tests his discovery on an imprisoned patient (Elena Anaya), who is allowed every luxury except freedom. Together with his housekeeper, the two watch the mysterious beautiful young woman from LCD screens, making certain that she doesn’t escape or harm herself. When an unexpected guest shows up things quickly get out of hand.
Filled with tension, wonder and horror, the first half of the story sets up the plot and offers little more than unsettling questions: Who is this mysterious woman? What happened to the doctor’s wife? When the answers are slowly unfolded, petal by petal, we are taken down a dark, twisted, winding hole of sinisterness. This screenplay is extremely polished and beautifully nuanced.
Both Banderas and Anaya must be commended for their performances. There is an amazing chemistry between the two. Banderas oozes suave and cool menace as the nutty professor, while Anaya demands sympathy and projects innocence as the helpless victim.
Don’t let the subtitles scare you away. This is an exceptionally well-made art film. The type only Pedro Almodóvar could make. Ironically, you will leave thinking he is as equally mad as his lead character.
The Spanish director has added a science-fiction element that verges on horror. With so many themes at work in The Skin I live In, it’s hard to pin-point the genre. Like a master and puppeteer of illusion, the director cleverly toys with our emotions, evoking audiences to tears, anger and surprise.
If you have the stomach, it’s well worth watching!