fri 16/04/2021

DVD: The Skin I Live In | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Skin I Live In

DVD: The Skin I Live In

Banderas plays God in Almodovar's chilly gothic essay on the plastic surgeon's art

All about another: Elena Anaya in 'The Skin I Live In'

From his early establishing hit which located them on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Almodóvar has always displayed an obsessive interest in the inner world of women – mothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends. That obsession takes a striking swerve to the left in The Skin I Live In, whose release on DVD comes opportunely along as the French government is having to cope with a round of botched implant procedures.

From his early establishing hit which located them on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Almodóvar has always displayed an obsessive interest in the inner world of women – mothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends. That obsession takes a striking swerve to the left in The Skin I Live In, whose release on DVD comes opportunely along as the French government is having to cope with a round of botched implant procedures.

Although it features a wealthy, ground-breaking plastic surgeon played by an icy, poker-faced Antonio Banderas, this is rather more than a disquisition on the tyranny of body image. Like some modern Dr Frankenstein in his palatial eyrie, Robert Ledgard keeps a woman called Vera (Elena Anaya) under lock and key as he completes the grafting of a new skin which is both at once infinitively soft and impermeable to pain. All we know is that he has fashioned her in the image of his faithless late wife, a burns victim who killed herself after glimpsing her reflection. Can theirs be more than a relationship between God and Adam (though maybe make that Eve)? Indeed can any back story - such as the fateful one featuring Ledgard's daughter and a boy she picks up at a party (Jan Cornet) - allow one human to play God over another? The answers are triggered as soon as Vera is raped by an interloper dressed, in a classic Almodovarian touch, as a carnival tiger.

More than that cannot be revealed without blowing the whole plot’s cover. Almodóvar has adapted his story from contemporary Spanish fiction but it feels as if it draws on a much older myth – something fluid and Ovidian about gender, beauty and identity. It flirts too with gothic horror and dystopian sci-fi, being set in a future which begins next week. If this chilly parable intrigues more than moves, it’s because the pulse refuses to race for characters who never quite shed their skin as theoretical propositions. It also tees up another of the director's storylines about mothers and their sons, without ever delivering.

The main extra is a fly-on-the-wall making-of featurette which consciously apes the scientist’s wordless surveillance.

 

Almodóvar has adapted his story from contemporary Spanish fiction but it feels as if it draws on a much older myth

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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