8 September 2011
THE SKIN I LIVE IN- Review
The other film I saw, the Spanish melodrama The Skin I Live In, is similarly at spoiler risk, but it's considerably easier to talk about without giving too much away. As it begins, we find ourselves in the home of Robert Ledgard, a widowed plastic surgeon who lives a reclusive life in his mansion in Toledo. Upstairs, he keeps a young woman called Vera under lock and key, secluded from the outside world, as Robert experiments with synthetic skin. Only from their dreams do we begin to realise the full extent of their unusual relationship.
Seriously, the less you know about this one, the better. Although this review is essentially spoiler-free, I barely knew what this film was even about when I saw it, and I'm glad for it. If you know nothing about it, be assured that it's great, and go see it. It's the best way, and personally, I found myself completely taken in by its non-linear narrative and all of the secrets that it held. Telling the story this way around greatly enhances the effectiveness of the characters, particularly the stern, secretive Robert.
Elena Anaya finds similar success, in the role of a woman whose entire identity has been erased. She still has a name, Vera, and she practices yoga as she wiles away the long hours of imprisonment, being fed by dumb waiter. Vera can be at once seductive and frazzled, a woman driven almost to the end of her tether by her jailer, and Anaya also reaps the benefits of a multi-layered narrative. It's a thought-provoking film, and the actors are as conscious of the beguiling narrative as the director.
Pedro Almodóvar's films make up one of the embarrassing gaps in my cinematic knowledge, though most of his films are on my to-watch list, and he certainly seems to have made enough of a name for himself that he can proclaim this one to be "a film by Almodóvar" without appearing presumptuous. The film is based on a novel by Thierry Jonquet, called Tarantula, but it also owes a thematic debt to Frankenstein. Perhaps, by now, that's a little passé, but it's not simply a question of who is the monster and who is the man, between the obsessive Robert and the subjugated Vera, but a question of who created who.
Both of these questions are concerned with identity, and as Robert espouses early on, while lecturing about face transplants, a person's identity is in their face. You don't realise how completely some of the characters have lost their identities when you first see them, but the intrigue of the film is in the slow-burning reveal. The trade-off is that a lot of film seems ancillary, up until a point at which sleeping characters flashback to the truth of the tale. This includes the aforementioned synthetic skin, and an interlude that involves the arrival of Robert's maid's son, resplendent in a carnival tiger outfit. No, really.
The Skin I Live In is now showing in select cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Skin I Live In, why not share your comments below? Save yer smartarse grammatical comments- we all know it's supposed to be The Skin In Which I Live. Blurp.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.