First things first. Don't read any
you off to things you shouldn't know. I avoided press releases and reviews
before seeing the movie and that worked out well for me. The early part of the
film was odd and intriguing. The middle section was odd and confusing - I
wondered whether all of the scenes would add up to something or whether some
were mere digressions. The final part of the film royally messed up my head.
During the closing credits I was still reeling. So freaky. So disquieting. So
I'm not going to lay out the plot - I'll just tell you what
is shown in the first few minutes: Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is an
intense plastic surgeon developing an artificial skin resistant to burns and
insect bites. Tough skin. In Ledgard's compound in the town of Toledo in Spain,
he monitors a woman named Vera (Elena Anaya), who wears only a flesh-colored
bodystocking and behaves like a trapped animal. Vera appears to be Ledgard's
patient and prisoner. The doctor is assisted in his daily tasks by his loyal
housekeeper, Marilia (Marisa Paredes).
Forget the romance you associate with Almodovar films. He's
going someplace else this time, presenting dark, bizarre events in a
matter-of-fact fashion. Sure, he's done that before, but this film gets darker
and goes further out there than usual.
The classic James Whale film version of Frankenstein presented the creature sympathetically in spots, but
primarily as a menace. Almodovar's film, based loosely on the story "Mygale" by
Thierry Jonquet, takes time to study what it's like to be the subject of an
obsessive surgeon's attention (no spoilers - I'm still working off the basic
set-up). Here, the horror is in the process.
Men do bad things in the film. One justifies his actions.
Another wallows in his. One is so stoned he doesn't even know he did anything
wrong. The women in the film are acutely aware of their suffering, but hesitant
or unable to change their situations. Neither the patient nor the doctor reveal
their inner selves verbally. Almodovar does it instead with his unblinking
camera and it feels invasive. One more thing to make you squirm.
There is so much I want to say about this movie, but I
can't. Frustrating. What can I safely mention?
Two of the female characters do so much acting with their eyes that I
was reminded of silent films - their expressions flirt with camp, but their
grim circumstances mute the humor.
Alberto Iglesias' score is a beaut - listen to him effectively
build tension with organs and trumpets. Incidentally, the singer in the party
scene with the braided hair and the gap in her teeth is Concha Buika. Check her out on YouTube
out on YouTube; she's a stylish vocalist and possesses a distinctive beauty.
The Skin I Live In
is more stimulating intellectually than emotionally, in part due to the walls
(the figurative ones) around key characters, but Almodovar stirs your feelings
in other ways. Freaky, distancing, melodramatic, straightforward, nonlinear,
disturbing - this is his best movie in years.