Film review: La piel que habito – The Skin I Live In

29 Aug

– by Andrew Brady

Pedro Almodovar’s film is one of horror, elegance, comedy and surrealism. Those who are familiar with his work will recognise these traits but for those who are not – myself included – the mix is magical.

The story begins with the brilliant plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (the fantastic Antonio Banderas) at his home. Here lies a private operating theatre where ethical boundaries are crossed. The mansion is also ‘home’ to Ledgard’s special patient Vera (Elena Anaya) who practises yoga in a catsuit. Ledgard watches Vera on surveillance screens while she remains locked in the room for reasons which are not clear, and when they come into contact in the room there is a romantic chemistry between the two which Ledgard continuously draws himself back from entering into.
It soon becomes clear that the reason for this is that Vera is Ledgard’s patient – but no ordinary one at that. Vera is his creation as a result of genetically modified human skin. But who is Vera – is it Ledgard’s wife who is presumed to have died in a car crash from burns, or someone surgically created to resemble her? Those familiar with the concept of Stockholm syndrome should be prepared for it to be stretched to the limits.
Ledgard soon transforms into a maniac but yet someone who you feel compassion for as he appears to care for Vera with precision and meticulousness; while a journey of emotions begins with the character Vera . For those familiar with Almodovar’s work this journey coincides with – quite frankly – compelling absurdity. It involves a Brazilian robber in a carnival tiger costume who happens to be the wayward son of Ledgard’s housekeeper Marilia – who is also Ledgard’s mother unbeknown to him – and with this another sub-plot unfolds.

Almodovar’s further depth into the absurd involves Ledgard’s disturbed daughter and a young window dresser Vincent who meet at a wedding party. It is at this point where the story truly unravels. I will say no more for fear of revealing the plot, however, be prepared to leave the cinema at the final scene laughing, bemused and chilled. It is a film produced with exquisiteness and style.

Now showing on general release and at the GFT.


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