Medical Ethics & Sexual Identity: The Skin I Live In

Medical Ethics & Sexual Identity: The Skin I Live In

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
20th Century Fox Home Ent.

Release date: December 26th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 115 minutes

Writer and director: Pedro Almodóvar

Country of origin: Spain
Original language: Spanish with English subtitles

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes

Over the years the rape and revenge thriller has taken all manner of turns, but leave it to Pedro Almodóvar to offer something different with a story that dishes out a punishment to truly fit the crime.

As with Matador (1986), Almodóvar combines themes of sexuality and violence but adds questions about medical ethics and gender that were also touched on in Hable con ella (2002). Yet for those seeming similarities The Skin I Live In is a story that takes a few previously unexplored turns in the cinema of Almodóvar with its twists, turns and flashbacks.

At the centre of it all is a surgeon, Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas). He’s done quite well for himself with his career and lives a comfortable lifestyle, but he’s obsessed with creating a new type of synthetic skin capable of withstanding damage or disease. It’s admirable really, but as Almodóvar takes us deeper into the story we begin to question not only Robert’s motives but also his sanity.

The Skin I Live In

Having lost his wife some years before, Robert now keeps a young woman, Vera (Elena Anaya), captive and under constant surveillance in his secluded mansion with the help of his servant Marilia (Marisa Paredes). Vera wears a skin suit and looks something like a modern-day Bride of Frankenstein or Christiane (Edith Scob) in Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage (1960), but as time goes by we see that she’s no exactly desperate to get away from Robert.

Almodóvar then takes us back in time as he starts to reveal more about these characters. It’s here that we start to learn about the tragic events leading up to Robert’s wife’s death but the twist comes when we begin to look at Vera’s past and realise who she is and why Robert chose her.

The Skin I Live In

With his sumptuous use of photography Almodóvar captures everything he needs to tell us theory of these characters; it’s erotic, horrifying and poetic. It’s also a film that’s hard to categorise, it’s not really a rape and revenge thriller, nor is it a horror or a drama. It’s simply the cinema of Almodóvar, a space where only his films. He lays out a story in the time he needs while other directors might have trimmed off a few minutes here and there, compromising on what’s communicated during those silences between the characters in the film world and us in the real world.

As The Skin I Live In draws to a close, it leaves in its a wake a torrent of thoughts for us about whether or not we can really change who we are on the inside by changing what we look like on the outside. It also gives rise to discussions about medical ethics and how some of these wonder drugs and skin care treatments really reach the market, especially in the wake of the recent PIP breast implant scare.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.