There are very few films that make me shock me. I have watched and appreciated A Serbian Film, I have seen both Human Centipedes, and I like to think that I am numb to the idea of being “shocked” by a film. The Skin I Live In is a severely fucked up film, and I mean that with sincerity. I don’t want to come off as hating the film because it was “too much” because I think it’s a fine piece of cinema. It was a viewing experience that I have not had in awhile, in which I was forced to think about why I like to watch horror films. The trailer does little justice to what this film is, and I don’t think I can discuss too much without spoiling it for you. The Skin I Live In is for people who appreciate a glamorous horror film, in which the strengths in the film are not relying on the horror exclusively, but is actually a well made piece of art. Yes, I called this art. There is something modern and abstract about The Skin I Live In that appeals to the senses as well as being completely fucked up. I tend to stray away from using expletives in reviews, but sometimes there are no other words.
Robert (Antonio Banderas) is a plastic surgeon who is intent on creating the perfect skin, one that is resistant to flames and diseases. The scientific community is not one hundred percent behind him because his methods require human testing which is prohibited by law. Little does the community know that Robert has a patient held captive in his mansion where he is perfecting his craft. Vera (Elena Anaya) spends her days being comfortably captive by practicing yoga and reading. Towards the beginning, Vera tries to commit suicide but is unsuccessful and is kept alive by Robert. The house maid, Marilia is in charge of making sure Vera is kept comfortable and maintaining the pseudo-prison that Robert has created. During the Carnival (that big thing that happens in Spain every year), Zeca, Marilia’s son shows up to escape from the authorities. Zeca has recently robbed a bank and wants to hold up in Robert’s house. He sees Vera on a surveillance screen and proceeds to run through the house in order to have his way with her. The rape occurs, causing the true nature of Robert’s madness to surface as well as to who Vera is.
Yeah, it is not a great movie to provide an exposition for. The narrative is not confusing but it is extremely layered and revealing too much would ruin the experience for you. Director Pedro Almondovar (Broken Embraces) is aware of the complexity of the script and pieces the films narrative together slowly, teasing the audience as to how far the rabbit hole goes for the character of Robert. Every scene revels more about the strange situation of Robert and Vera, and with every curtain drawn back, the horror grows into a beast that I have never had the pleasure of viewing before. My jaw descended after every story beat until I was shaking with utter nausea.
The Skin I Live In is a horror film at heart but one that is not hindered by poor performances or lack luster sub plots. This is a film for not only horror fans; it’s also for those who appreciate cinema in all its complexity. Everything in The Skin I Live In is grade A quality. A strong score plays throughout, something similar to Melancholia, where the music is an affectation of the characters moods and actions. The performances are astounding and Banderas is on top of his game in this installment. He dominates every scene he is in with his brooding, revenge driven personality.
Every shot in the film feels like something out of the MOMA but not pretentiously so. The film focuses a large amount of time on the importance of the body’s aesthetics and what beautiful is. It’s not a shallow presentation, in fact there is a lot about love and companionship in the script, but once again, I really can’t talk about that stuff here. While Melancholia may have been artsy in the pretentious way (it’s still pretty, damn good), The Skin I Live In uses the art to further push the themes and provide nutrition for the viewers eyes.
If you love horror, you really need to see this film. I don’t think that the casual theater attendee will enjoy this experience because this is a difficult film to digest. I haven’t been this shook up for long time and I enjoy knowing that there are still some films out there that can still potentially get under my skin. I didn’t have any problems with The Skin I Live In and I found few faults with the overall presentation. Do yourself a favor and catch this at your local theater, you might even see a few people walk out. That should be reason enough.