This film can best be described as a psychological thriller based on the criminally insane. The Skin I Live In is disturbing on many levels and one has to wonder about the moral ethics of our society. There is a bestiality about the characters in this film that makes the film depressing. You watch in horror with no sense of hope throughout the film. The damage done is irreversible and frightening. Antonio Banderas plays Robert Ledgard, a surgeon who takes a matter of revenge into his own hands and proceeds to use a human as a guinea pig to advance his research.
It is not clear whether the film is about revenge for a crime committed against Ledgard’s daughter, or about scientific research prompted by the horrific accident suffered by Ledgard’s wife. The combination is utter madness and quite bizarre. Banderas is a fine piece of eye candy and a major selling point for this film, but in my opinion is miscast as the evil surgeon. He attempts to be emotionless and cold, however, there is a warmth about him as a human being that makes it difficult for the audience to hate him. Had another actor, such as a Spanish version of John Malkovich been cast in his role, I’m sure there would have been a higher level of emotion expressed by the audience towards this evil character. Elena Anaya is magic to watch as Vera Cruz. She works each scene to her advantage, mesmerising the audience with her beauty. Considering the mental state of the characters depicted in this film, the fact that she is able to remain so poised and calm in the diabolical situation she is imprisoned in, makes her character unbelievable. Not even a hint of madness. Surely the practise of yoga that she embraces to help her cope is not that powerful, especially for a novice.
The Skin I Live In is masterfully directed by Pedro Almodóvar, Spain’s most internationally acclaimed director. The story is an unnecessarily complex one with enough twists and turns to make your head spin. The loose ends are neatly tied together, unfortunately with predictability and the ending is too simplistic and convenient. A simpler storyline could have worked better and made the story more believable, and easier to digest. Eliminating unnecessary characters and subplots and having Vera raped by Robert would have had a bigger effect on the audience’s feelings towards Robert.
Having Robert’s work colleague, Zeca begin to investigate Robert’s illegal research at the beginning of the film would have created more tension throughout the movie, rather than have him appear towards the end of the film with his allegations, and then have the film end shortly after. The blending of two characters was completely unconvincing but the idea of the story was intriguing, and as I mentioned before, very disturbing. There is little explanation as to the insanity of Robert’s daughter. She appears as a puppet in the film to serve a purpose and then is conveniently disposed of. Too much tragedy makes a heart grow cold. It’s not a film you would want to watch again. All up, the film kept you squirming in your seat and although not a pleasant experience to watch, it certainly was different. Jacqui’s rating: 3 out of 5