‘La Piel Que Habido’ (The Skin I Live In)

I had been wanting to see this film for a while but amidst moving into my new flat in Manchester, finishing my internship and catching up on sleep, I haven’t had much time to visit the cinema. However yesterday I finally got round to seeing Pedro Almodóvar‘s latest venture, La Piel Que Habido and I have to say, although I did enjoy it, it was not the spectacular return to cinema-going that I had anticipated.

I have included the official trailer for the film above to… set the scene, so to speak and in retrospect, it promises a much more enthralling and gripping visual experience than the delivery, which is ever so slightly lacklustre. The plot dances between past and present, telling the tale of Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) and his ravenous appetite for revenge after his daughter, Norma is raped by Vincente (Jan Cornet) and his wife, Vera (Elena Anaya) is left with severe burn disfigurement resulting in her eventual suicide. The narrative is fabricated through a series of flashbacks and flash forwards which could definitely have benefited from some acceleration.

Dr. Ledgard obsessively cultures a skin which is invincible to any harm such as burns and insect bites and in a Frankenstein-esque, classic Horror type manner, uses his skills as a plastic surgeon to recreate his deceased wife using the body of Vincente as his trembling foundations. There is an undeniable nod towards old-school horror throughout the film’s entirety exemplified in one way by the frequent ‘eye contact’ between spectator and actor. This is known as ‘breaking the fourth wall‘ and was a technique adopted by the master of suspense and maestro of macabre himself, Alfred Hitchcock.

The opening sequence is set in the domestic sphere, instantly heightening vulnerability but also connoting ‘normality’ and safety to the passive viewer. Despite this sense of ‘home’, I couldn’t shake the feeling of anxiety for what was to follow. Perhaps it was the unnerving image splashed across promotional posters I had seen or maybe  the unsettling chimes of lyric-less music which accompanied the opening, or even the distinct lack of dialogue. Either way, Banderas’ haunting, almost evil features certainly didn’t pacify my tension but isn’t that why Almodóvar and him are such a match made in cinematic heaven?

Themes of power manipulation and use of advanced technology to support selfish endeavours are glaringly obvious and can’t possibly be anything but a resentful reference to Spanish history. In a similar vain of blatancy, the shots of the carnival and ‘the tiger’ so clearly symbolise the masks that people hide behind and the ambiguous nature of society.

Dr. Ledgard and his colleague discuss the powers of technological development and the possibilities it then opens to the human race. I began to feel a little apprehensive about the technical wonderments which are pilling high on my ‘Christmas want’ list, for it is the intricacies that enable iPads, smart phones, Sat Navs and other such gadgets to function that are inspiring and assisting sick-minded humans today.

Sorry to drag on what could be a short and snappy, 6/10, ‘rent it on DVD but don’t waste your money on extortionate cinema prices to watch it’ review with an admiration for Vera, the passive female who claims victory but an annoyance for the profound yet slightly pretentious, closure-snatching ending. However, I really want to use this blog to channel all the thoughts flying round my head as I watch a film (for future reference or maybe just to make more room in my brain).

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