The Skin I Live In
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 11th March 2012
Pedro Almodovar is a long-time master of curious, fantastical, art-house fare, and remarkably nothing seems to stem his creative flow. He’s a bit like a Spanish Woody Allen, loyal to a core team of expressive/beautiful/characterful faces whom he has cast time and again over the decades, producing lively stories that often defy reality but usually thrill, amuse and entertain.
Unlike Allen, Almodovar takes a darker alleyway through human nature, and this thriller certainly pushes the boundaries, crossing body-horror with occasional farce in a story of a renegade plastic surgeon who holds a young woman captive in his house in order to experiment on her.
Almodovar regular Antonio Banderas plays the doctor Robert Ledgard who nurses a tortured soul and sinister motivations. The object of Ledgard’s gaze is the chocolate-eyed Vera played by Elena Anaya. We don’t immediately find out why Vera is held prisoner, nor is it clear exactly how reluctant she is. With a hint of Stockholm Syndrome, Vera’s behaviour defies our expectations, and adds to the twists and turns of an ever-shifting narrative.
The narrative bounces around in the timeline stakes, somewhat hindering a fluid, cohesive story, and despite being elegant and disturbing, it is strangely disaffecting. But, while outlandish, the revelations are nonetheless compelling and ultimately shocking. It’s a curious beast.