The Skin I Live In


Written by Olivia Patt
29 Monday 29th August 2011

And that’s about all we can say about the plot. The film deals with loss, insanity, human sexuality and perversity. As always, Almodovar weaves an intricate tale that leaves little room for explanation without giving the whole story away. But trust us when we say he weaves it well. With The Skin I Live In, Almodovar gives us a departure for the dark comedy and bright colours of previous films such as Volver and Broken Embraces, and presents us with a deeply twisted, sexual thriller.

As mentioned before, the colours of the film are subdued, sombre and the setting and impressive acting manage to make serious what is essentially a ridiculous story.  This, combined with a wonderfully menacing soundtrack from Alberto Iglesias full of tense violins, creates a genuinely chilling atmosphere. You spend most of the film feeling slightly distressed, rather than scared, and while there are few moments that make you jump, there are many that cause you to turn your face from the screen in discomfort. Any Almodovar film wouldn’t be complete without a touch a comedy, but the laughs you’ll hear while watching this film are more likely to be nervous titters; and then straight back to discomfort.

Banderas is fantastic as the surgeon, quiet and disturbing, while still managing to be somewhat touching at times. Rather than being simply a crazy professor, the audience really does believe him to be a man driven insane by the loss of his wife and daughter, which helps the plot run more smoothly. The bulk of the film is based around the beautiful young woman, Vera, played by Elena Anaya, trapped in his house. Who is she? Why is she there? Why is wearing that unflattering-on-anyone-but-a-size-zero Spanish woman full bodysuit? Anaya is impressive, giving an almost one on one performance with the camera, full of zoomed in and close up shots on her eyes, breasts and enviously perfect skin. However, the show stealer has to be Paredes as Marilia, at times highly-strung and angry, at others broken down and tragic – one of Almodovar’s most magnificent wretched mothers (and there’s a lot).

Of course there’s a twist; a big one. It arrives pretty early on, and The Skin I Live In essentially becomes a film of two parts – a first half of utter creepy confusion, and a second half in which the twist is explained through flashbacks. As always with Almodovar, the plot is convoluted, and in this film almost too much so, leaving the audience scrabbling to piece together clues right until the last twenty minutes. With the plot twist coming so early, the very final part of the film feels almost anti climatic and a little unnecessary after the quiet intensity of the first 100 minutes; despite the tension of the film, you leave the cinema feeling ever so slightly deflated.

The Skin I Live In is not Almodovar’s best work, but it is clearly the work of a masterful filmmaker. It is the performances, soundtrack and settings that make the film, rather than the plot. You feel that Almodovar is trying to make a serious thriller out of what should be, considering the nature of the subject matter, either black comedy or full blown horror, and he does not always succeed. However, as with any of film of the skilled director’s, it’s 118 minutes well spent. It may even be worth going just to see an Almodovar film without Penelope Cruz in it.


The Skin I Live In is out now in cinemas throughout the UK, as of Friday August 26th, 2011.

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