New review: The Skin I Live In

// 30 November 2011

Remaining spooked and preoccupied, Mhairi Guild still appreciates density and creativity of Almodovar’s latest grotesque fairytale of not-only-gender identity, desire and power

We staggered out of Pedro Almodóvar’s latest offering somewhat shell-shocked. There is a huge amount to get out of The Skin I Live In but goodness, is it profoundly dark. Generally well received, the film has nonetheless split critics, some seeing it as a fetishistic mess or empty stylistic exercise, others as a stunning horror of the mind. I think that your reception of the film is likely to depend on your prior relationship with Almodóvar and on how willing you are to go on this particular journey with him.

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A dark alpha male Antonio Banderas plays the brooding, obsessive surgeon Robert Ledgard, bunkered in a grand Toledo mansion which offers a lush set for his initially unexplained experimentation on the beautiful captive Vera, played by the porcelain doll-like Elena Anaya. The perfection of Vera’s flawless, synthetic skin and the charged secret of her relationship with Ledgard is the central riddle of a plot that weaves back and forth between earlier stages of the narrative and gradually takes us down to depths scarcely imaginable at the outset.

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