The Skin I Live In (2011)

skin i live in poster 2011 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Deep horror drama

The addition of the half-brother/mother storyline didn't add enough

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Skin I Live In

Studio: Blue Haze Entertainment

Genre(s): Drama/Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s): May 19, 2011 (Cannes)/August 26, 2011 (UK)/October 14, 2011 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

skin i live in antonio banderas painting elena anaya

Robert and his work of art

Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is a talented plastic surgeon working on a secret project.  After his wife was burned and later died in a fiery wreck, he hoped to make more resistant skin that withstand basic “attacks” and yet still have feeling.  He is secretly doing these experiments at his isolated home on a woman named Vera (Elana Anaya).  Vera is not free to leave.  Locked in her room, Vera has her own secret and a past tightly tied to Robert…and Vera isn’t forgetting where she came from.

Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito) is a Spanish body horror thriller movie.  Following Almodóvar’s Broken Embrace in 2009, the Almodóvar screenplay adapts Thierry Jonquet’s 1984 novel Mygale (also published as Tarantula) and was well received upon its release.

Almodóvar rarely fails to surprise and The Skin I Live In, like many of his other films, is surprising and shocking.  The movie takes no path you can predict and though it isn’t a proper mystery, it takes a mysterious path to reach the end.  Due to aspects of the plot, a ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

skin i live in elena anaya mask

These pro bono cases suck…

The movie unfolds a lot like a Cronenberg horror film (particularly something like Dead Ringers).  It is a horror movie down the core of horror…unstoppable, unrepairable damage to everyone involved.  It is a tale of unbridled vengeance along the lines of Titus Andronicus with taking revenge a step further and adding abuse and mind-shattering damage to Vicente Guillén Piñeiro who did commit a crime, but the idea of “the punishment-fitting-the-crime” comes into question.

Antonio Banderas is cold and collected but also in mourning all over the place.  He mourns his daughter and he mourns his wife…and his revenge is to sculpt his daughter’s rapist into the image of his wife.  By the end, he is genuinely “re-in love” with the man playing his dead wife, and it costs him his life.  Both Elana Anaya and Jan Cornet also give strong performances as Vera and Vincente.  The inclusion of the half-brother storyline involving Roberto Álamo and Zeca and Robert’s mother Marilia (played by Marisa Paredes) feels a bit over the top, but it also demonstrates the plague of the family and the loss upon loss.

skin i live in elena anaya ending

Hey, Mom…soooo long time no see

The film also looks great.  The aesthetic clean look of Robert’s perfect home and even operating room shows his quest for perfection and desire.  With giant monitors on the wall to watch Vera, Vera is scene like a classic painting (sometimes directly like when she is lying on the couch reading).  Likewise, the use of clothes and fabric (which covers the skin so desired by Banderas) also creates a nice visual and look for the character of Vera…through the whole transformation.

The movie gets a lot of comparisons to Eyes Without a Face (1960) which is also about a plastic surgeon in a desperate attempt to repair his daughter.  Both movies bring the horror, and the twists and turns of The Skin I Live In add to the depth of the horror as you realize what is happening.  Movies like The Human Centipede do similar things but miss the innuendo and deeper horror by just going for shock value.  The Skin I Live in gets both.  Almodóvar followed The Skin I Live In with I’m So Excited in 2013.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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