Review: The Skin I Live In


Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
Written by:Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, Roberto Alamo, Eduard Fernandez
Released: December 26, 2011
Grade: A

If I told you to go see a certain film without knowing anything about it, would you do it?  If the answer to that question is “yes” then you can finish reading at the end of this paragraph.  I caught The Skin I Live In at the closing night celebrations of the recent Brisbane International Film Festival and it simply blew me away!  I knew nothing about the storyline beforehand and I’ve come to the conclusion that’s the best way to see it (as is the case with so many movies).

If you remain unconvinced, I will reluctantly provide a few more details with the hope that it will whet your appetite.  The plot centres on a successful plastic surgeon named Robert Ledgard (Banderas) who is developing a new type of synthetic skin that does not burn.  He has successfully trialled it using mice and believes it can revolutionise the industry.  Some of his colleagues aren’t convinced however.  They’re unsure about its practicality and whether it could actually be used on human beings.

What they don’t know is that he is already several steps ahead.  Breaching numerous laws and ethical boundaries, Ledgard has set up an operating theatre in his own home and has been testing the skin on a young woman (Anaya).  She spends most of her life locked in a spacious room on the upper floor.  Ledgard uses video cameras attached to the walls to keep a close eye on her at all times.

Who is this woman?  Why has she agreed to be treated?  What is her relationship to Ledgard?  Why must she be kept in a locked room?  With the premise firmly established, these questions will be answered in the film’s gripping second half.

There are few international directors working today who have a reputation as strong as Spaniard Pedro Almodovar.  He already has two Academy Awards on his mantelpiece – best foreign language film in1999 for All About My Mother and best original screenplay in 2002 for Talk To Her.  He has developed a reputation for being a “women’s director” and his films often focus on strong female characters.  The Skin I Live In is another great example.  Antonio Banderas is great but it’s the performance of Elena Anaya (Talk To Her, Van Helsing) that will stick with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

I like Almodovar’s description of the film as being “a horror story without screams or frights”.  Again, I don't want to give too much away but this unsettling tale is told so beautifully, so precisely.  The actions of some characters will shock you but in the back of your mind, you’ll understand their motivations.  Things are never as simple as they appear.

The end of the year is upon us and I’ve already named my top 10 movies of 2011.  The Skin I Live In sits in 4th place on that list – behind Another Year, 127 Hours and Senna.  It’s my pick of the Boxing Day releases in Australia and trust me, it’s a film you won’t forget for a long time.