Review: The Skin I Live In

PUBLISHED: 15:41 09 September 2011

The Skin I Live In

The Skin I Live In


This beautiful and bonkers film from Spanish master Pedro Almodóvar, based loosely on a French novel, is the kind which should be watched with very little knowledge about the plot in advance.

Ideally, the audience should know nothing at all — but that would mean an abrupt end to this review.

Brilliant, refined and unscrupulous plastic surgeon Robert Legard (Antonio Banderas) has been toiling away for years trying to create a skin impervious to any damage. His human guinea pig is the mysterious and porcelain doll-like Vera (Elena Anaya). Constantly clad in a contoured, flesh coloured body suit, she lives out her days trapped, experimented upon and monitored in a windowless room inside the doctor’s palatial home.

The only other person who knows of Vera’s predicament is wary housekeeper Marilia (Marisa Paredes). Also entwined are addict and dress-maker Vicente (Jan Cornet) and man-on-the-run Zeca (Roberto Álamo) who arrives at the doctor’s house in a tiger costume. The mystery of Vera and the connection between all these characters is what drives the film.

Almodóvar covers familiar ground in exploring identity and relationships through over-the-top situations. What is new is that this is his first horror film, albeit one with very little blood and gore.

The real horror lies in the violation of morals and sensibilities, and in the growing sense of doom as we learn more about the characters through flashbacks.

The film will undoubtedly be too disturbing for some. Thankfully, relief is provided in a perverse sense of fun sprinkled throughout the film. The cinematography, set design and score is a feast for the eyes and ears.

Like the beautifully sculpted Vera, Almodóvar’s film is a work of art.


Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elna Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet

Length: 120 mins


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