Movie Review: "The Skin I Live In" by Ben Foutch

The Skin I Live In (2011)
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya 

Running Time: 117 min 

I've never seen any previous work from Spanish director, Pedro Almodóvar, so I didn’t know what to expect going into “The Skin I Live In”. After seeing this film, I was pleasantly surprised to have experienced an expertly crafted horror thriller that doesn’t rely on scares, but gracefully leads you through the dark side of science and the human psyche.

Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is a brilliant and talented plastic surgeon with a tragic past. His quest, on the surface, is creating a skin that can improve our resistance to outside threats, while retaining the soft and delicate feel of human flesh. His current muse is the beautiful, Vera (Elena Anaya). The problem is that she appears to be held captive by Robert, as well as being the model of his experiments. Yet, there is a strange attraction between the two.

The story is filled with themes of love, loss, revenge, sexual ambiguity, and some of science’s ethical implications. It is uncomfortable from the very beginning and keeps a strong level of tension like a tightly wound string.

What makes certain revelations even more powerful is the way the director interweaves the past and present, cleverly feeding us just enough information at the right times. You might feel bad for Robert; empathy for him doesn't last very long. Like any mad scientist, his moral and ethical code of conduct doesn’t exist. Is Frankenstein’s monster really horrific, or does the creator meet that criteria?

While the film is disturbing, it brings up some interesting questions. Robert tells us early in the film that the human face is what makes us unique. Facial expressions, visual identity, etc…  But does the outside really show who that person is underneath that skin? Can you really know or understand somebody just from their appearance? There is an interesting scene in which Vera is trying to come to terms with herself, attempting to reach some sort of inner peace. Is she still the same person she was before meeting Robert?

While there are no “scares” in this film, it definitely packs a punch. It is not a casual viewing experience. Expect to be involved to some degree. If you don’t like subtitles, get over it; I was never taken out of the film by them. If you want a unique thriller by an exceptional filmmaker 
(I’m not making an overstatement) then take the time to check this one out. If not, you are only punishing yourself. Love or hate it, I guarantee you won’t forget about it anytime soon.