The Skin I Live In (2011)
Directed by Pedro Almodovar
For the first and last time, I watched two Spanish-language films in two consecutive days. “The Skin I Live In,” polar opposite to yesterday’s “Casa de mi Padre,” is the thrilling medical drama from director Pedro Almodovar.
Prominent Spanish plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antoni Banderas) puts the mal in malpractice. While developing an artificial skin for burn victims (an honorable venture, given that his wife died after complications with third-degree burns), Ledgard keeps a woman (Elena Ayana) as a guinea pig, locked in a room in his mansion while he experiments different medical breakthroughs on her body. Sounds creepy, right? When we find out some closely-guarded secrets about his and her past, it turns out to be even creepier. It turns out love is way more than skin deep.
Even when I have to read my way through the entire movie, Sony Pictures Classics can do no wrong. NO WRONG. “Get Low,” “The Last Station,” “Moon,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Take Shelter,” “The Illusionist,” “A Dangerous Method.” Add “The Skin I Love In.” Great stuff. Antonio Banderas is terrifyingly creepy. The more we discover about his character, the creepier he is. But he’s dramatic and suave and simply brilliant. His co-stars are similarly spot-on, taking this dark and twisted story to a new level. You need to be masters of drama to pull off a story like this. They are.
Based on a novel Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet, the story is crazy. It’s a titillating and sexy thriller, subtly disturbing, but only once you get an hour or so into it do you truly understand why. When you realize what’s going on, you’ll cringe a little. I’ll spare you the spoilers, but think of this movie as an onion – only once you peel away all the layers of skin to you really know what’s happening. It’s a masterfully crafted collaboration of three screenwriters blending two interconnected stories across a period of six years. Sounds complicated, but not the way they handle it.
“The Skin I Live In” is also a complex social commentary on the bioethics of medicine. All Ledgard wants to do is make a skin that can help burn victims around the world. He even made his skin mosquito repellant, so it prevents malaria. Should the world care if one woman is mistreated for the sake of millions? Ledgard thinks not, but he’s vilified for it. It makes you think, the way great movies always do.
“The Skin I Live In” is on Blu-ray and DVD now.