The Skin I Live In, Almodóvar’s latest effort, revisiting many of the director’s preoccupations – sexuality, identity and desire – is deliciously bizarre, at times almost carnivalesque in its melodramatic execution.
Almodóvar’s narrative is so imbued with twists that any detailed plot synopsis risks giving too much away. Such is the nature of his film that a viewer’s enjoyment risks being detrimentally altered through too much prior knowledge.
Antonio Banderas reunites with the director as the enigmatic Robert Ledgard, a highly experimental plastic surgeon determined to create, through the forbidden method of transgenesis, a skin capable of withstanding and surviving being burnt. Within his elegant, sprawling home, a young woman, Vera (Elena Anaya) is compelled to remain in captivity, against her all-too-apparent will. The relationship between the two is both complex and confused: Vera exhibits a physical fascination for Ledgard.
Loosely based upon Thierry Jonquet’s pulp novel Tarantula, Almodóvar’s direction of his engaging narrative remains controlled and mastered, displaying his sheer craftsmanship. Utterly beautiful to look at, Almodóvar’s direction remains flawless, the camera lingering over the stunning Vera, encouraging the viewer to gaze upon her, much in the manner Ledgard employs: we become complicit in his voyeurism.
Banderas, long since lost in child-friendly fare, excels as the inscrutable, often morally reprehensible Ledgard. Anaya too is wonderfully bewitching as the fascinating Vera, as we too understand Ledgard’s obsession.
Some may find the film’s subject matter difficult to both empathise and emote with, but that is surely the very nature of the film. Much like Ledgard’s attempts at creating perfection, Almodóvar’s film has a glossy sheen to it, seemingly replicating its subject matter.