Written & Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet
As a longtime fan of Pedro Almodovar's films, I will admit the trailer for his latest film The Skin I Live In left me somewhat baffled (see embedded trailer below). Having now seen the film however, I see the method in his madness. The trailer tells you little or nothing about the film but bombards the viewer with crazy images which are in retrospect probably designed to confuse. The trailer serves the purpose of telling the viewer very little of what the film is about while titillating with striking visuals. A bold move but an effective one, because the less you know about this film going in the better.
With that in mind, I'll keep this review short and will try not to give anything away. Antonio Banderas plays a rather unhinged scientist who is keeping a beautiful young woman prisoner in his home while using her as a human guinea pig for a new type of synthetic human skin. That's about as much information as you need. As the story unfolds, petal by petal in that flower-like way we've become accustomed to seeing from Almodovar, each scene adds wonder and flavour to an already robust set-up. Moving at a break-neck pace, not a frame is without beauty and not a second is wasted without pushing the story along. This screenplay is extremely polished and beautifully nuanced.
As usual, cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine delivers beautifully vibrant visuals, but unlike other Almodovar films, this palette is decidedly less colourful, sticking mainly to Cronenbergian metallic colours fused with fleshy tones but with the odd gash of vibrant colour. It is as beautiful to behold as any other Almodovar film, but perhaps less garish.
In a film that relies on ambiguity in so many ways the cast here must be commended. Delicate balances are achieved by all concerned and it's wonderful to see Antonio Banderas settling into the rather unsettling role of Dr. Robert Ledgard. He exudes the same charisma and sexual bravura that made him famous but without the least whiff of sex symbol status coming through in the performance. He is creepy, strangely alluring and underplays the "mad scientist" bit admirably. Elena Anayas also impresses in a very challenging performance both physically and emotionally, both of which are perfectly effective as her story unfolds. A brilliant character who may not have been so impressive in the hands of a less capable actress. The camera intimately caresses her face and body throughout and she steadfastly rises to the challenge of being as beautiful a muse as a director could ask for.
It is unlikely that Almodovar will win over any new fans with The Skin I Live In but he will surely satisfy his already massive fanbase. A dark, thoughtful, frightening piece but never shying away from the heights of melodrama that Almodovar is known for, this sits beautifully on the line between Cronenberg at his best and a crazy soap opera.
Unique, gothic and delightfully melodramatic! I love it!
- Charlene Lydon