The Skin I Live in (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/08/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

Deliciously dark, superbly written thriller-slash-twisted love story from Pedro Almodovar that explores some fascinating ideas about obsession and revenge, and features a terrific performance from Antonio Banderas.

What's it all about?
Directed by Pedro Almodovar, The Skin I Live In is loosely based on a French novel (Tarantula) by Thierry Jonquet and stars Antonio Banderas as brilliant plastic surgeon Doctor Robert Ledgard. Currently experimenting with a new type of skin for Vera (Elena Anaya), a beautiful but unstable young woman, he keeps her imprisoned in his mansion home with the complicity of his childhood nanny Marilia (Marisa Paredes). As the relationship between Robert and Vera progresses, it gradually becomes clear that she is somehow linked to both the suicide of his teenage daughter (Blanca Suarez) and a tragic accident involving his beloved wife.

At the same time, flashbacks reveal the story of Vicente (Jan Cornet), a conflicted young man who works in his mother's dress shop, who encounters both Robert and his daughter at a party. Meanwhile, back in the present, Robert's life is suddenly thrown into chaos by the arrival of his crazy half-brother Zeca (Roberto Alamo).

The Good
It's a treat to see Antonio Banderas reunited with Almodovar after 21 years and he duly delivers a terrific performance that is all the more powerful for being deliberately understated: for one thing, you're never quite sure whether Robert is the mad scientist-style villain or a tragic hero. There's also terrific support from Alamo (something of a scene-stealer in his tiger costume), Anaya (beautiful, enigmatic) and Cornet, while Marisa Paredes is effectively chilling as Robert's devoted nanny.

The script is excellent, cleverly taking familiar elements from other films (obsessively recreating a lost love from Vertigo, revenge from any number of revenge thrillers, your common or garden mad scientist) and blending them into something that's both deeply twisted and extremely moving, while simultaneously exploring ideas of identity and sexuality.

The Great
The film is beautifully shot, with striking cinematography from Almodovar regular Jose Luis Alcaine, who swaps Almodovar's usual bright garish colours for something darker. There's also a terrific score from Alberto Iglesias that heightens the increasingly tense atmosphere.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the film is the ending, which initially seems anti-climactic and curiously flat, but becomes more emotionally powerful the longer you think about it.

Worth seeing?
Stylishly directed and superbly written, The Skin I Live In is an enjoyably twisted psychodrama with a terrific central performance from Antonio Banderas. Highly recommended.

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The Skin I Live in (15)
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Content updated: 19/10/2017 07:54

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