Pedro Almodovar has based this venture on Thierry Jonquet’s novel The Tarantula, and ‘The Skin I Live In’ is a chilling and horrific tale with a good dose of romance. Revenge is spun from another world and smacks somewhat of Frankenstein, and while there are moments of tedium and the complexity is sometimes baffling, it’s sticking with it for the finale.
Antonio Banderas stars as Dr. Robert Ledgard, a renowned plastic surgeon who has a tragic past, which invariably sneaks up on the viewer. The start of the movie has the good doctor holding a bizarre experiment in his home. Vera (Elena Abaya) is receiving a skin transplant, the last step in her journey to perfection.
The audience is then taken on a helluva ride as we are taken back and forth between the past and the present as we see the past that Ledgard can’t come to terms with. He loses his wife in a horrific car wreck his daughter is then raped and goes insane and various other events that have created the screwed up genius that he is today.
This is a long movie, at over two hours the audience will find it both frustrating and punishing. Some of the flashbacks are completely unnecessary, especially the ones that are repeated and merely shot from a different angle. You can see that Alomodovar has a master plan to blow our minds with an explosive third act that he sees as a kind of demented perfection.
It would be easy to dismiss ‘The Skin I Live In’ as a romantic thriller, but in the third act the elements of horror that have remained hidden start to rear their ugly heads. The cinematography and scope bring a lot to this movie and Banderas’ transformation into a Dr Frankenstein is excellently done. It doesn’t aim to shock, more to draw the audience in through character definition.
While the complexity at times is way over the top, Almodovar just manages to keep control and this a clever movie that, thankfully, has a very good ending. Amateur detective shouldn’t try to figure it all out, better to go with the flow and let it play out, as you would have been wrong.