Knowing the unique journeys of European cinema, I ventured into the world of Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘The Skin I Live In’, or ‘La piel que habito’ (original title). Though not strictly in the horror category, this film holds the amazing essence of Spanish horror and portrays a disturbing twist in a subtle, beautiful way. It shows the story of a plastic surgeon’s revenge on the man who raped his daughter, using a prosthetic skin he designed.
The surgeon is played by Antonio Banderas (Known from ‘The Mask of Zorro’ and ‘Shrek’). I don’t think Banderas is used to his full potential in this role. While he acts it well, he doesn’t really shine, as you’d expect such a big name to do and he is nothing ‘special’. However, the character is delicately portrayed and we can really see how he effected and torn by his past. We don’t see a lot of explanation or motive behind his actions, though. While his act of revenge is amazing, you don’t fully understand why someone would be that sick minded as his anger over his daughter’s rape still doesn’t seem enough of a motive. The plot also seems a little twisted and confused. While we’re pushed to focus on the act of revenge, it is all told in flash-backs, after an introduction following the creation of the prosthetic skin and its reaction in the scientific community. While flashbacks are a different way of structuring the timeline, it might have made more sense told in a more straightforward fashion, perhaps with flashbacks on the side. Due to its unusual timing, you end up having the shocking reveal and suspense climaxing in the middle of the film, then a slow decline to the end.
While oddly placed, the suspense built in the film was wonderful. You’re left slightly puzzled until you realise the twist that leaves you so shocked and staring at the screen in wonder of its brilliance. Once you’ve found this peak, it’s a journey being pulled along by Almodóvar’s story-telling to find out what happens and why the mysterious ‘client’ stays with the surgeon. The main characters shine through and the more you follow the storyline, the more you understand the depth of those relationships; like slowly revealing a painting. Overall, I find this a beautiful art-work of cinema. While disturbing, it’s very subtle and delicate and it just shines elegance you rarely find in darker films.