Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Skin I Live In

Once again I was not expecting a horror film.

Watching one of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's films always feels a little risky and unpredictable. That an Almodovar film should also feel a little perverse is nothing new (e.g. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Live Flesh, Talk To Her). But generally I appreciate most of his films and at least two in the last decade (Talk To Her, Volver) made my top ten of the year. I particularly look forward to Almodovar’s suspense films because there is an obvious Hitchcockian element to these films. The Skin I Live In is no exception and may even be one of the clearest expressions of this. But I would describe this film as Hitchcock Dark. Maybe even Hitchcock Dark and Twisted. Indeed, The Skin I Live In also reminds me of many mad scientist horror films.

More precisely, The Skin I Live In is about a mad plastic surgeon (Robert Ledgard, played by Antonio Banderas) who, after failing to give his wife a new face after a car crash, seems determined to perfect his ability to restore or recreate skin, moulding it into whatever shape he wants. But nothing in The Skin I Live In is what it seems and it takes one dark turn after another as it explores the importance of the skin we live in.

Like all of Almodovar’s films, The Skin I Live In is full of rich colours, beautiful cinematography, good acting and lots of style. Banderas makes a good mad scientist, a very different kind of role for him (at least compared to Puss in Boots). Elena Anaya is excellent as Vera, a woman Ledgard is experimenting on as if she is nothing but an android he is building. Since The Skin I Live In is as much science fiction as horror, that was indeed an option I was considering before the film took its final dark turns.

This is a film that starts off in a very disturbing place and finds a way to get more disturbing with each passing minute. It is therefore not something my average reader is likely to enjoy. But if you are a fan of Almodovar or of dark and twisted stylish thrillers, then you probably want to check it out. As for me, I will give The Skin I Live In a solid *** for keeping me intrigued and for the allusions to my favourite Hitchcock films. My mug is up.

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