Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Film Review: A Review of “The Skin I Live In”

Marilia: “The things the love of a mad man can do!”
(Original sentence: “¡Hasta dónde puede llegar el amor de un loco!”)

“The Skin I Live In”: main features
Original Title:
La Piel Que Habito
Directed by:
Pedro Almodóvar
Produced by:
Agustín Almodóvar and Pedro Almodóvar
Release Year:
Based on:
Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet
Main characters:
Antonio Banderas as Robert Ledgard

Elena Anaya as Vera Cruz

Marisa Paredes as Marilia

Jan Cornet Vicente Guillén Piñeiro
Roberto Álamo as Zeca
Blanca Suárez Norma Ledgard
117 minutes

These few words, taken from a dialogue between Marilia and Vera, are probably the only ones able to explain the meaning of the whole film: the keywords, indeed, could be “madness” and “love”, but first it is better to introduce some technical aspects of this movie.

The Skin I Live In is a Spanish film by the notable director Pedro Almodóvar, realized in 2011, belonging to the thriller genre. Among the actors, there are some very famous faces, above all of the Spanish cinema, such as Antonio Banderas starring the main role of Robert Ledgard, Marisa Paredes who often worked with Almodóvar, Elena Anaya, and so on. The Skin I Live In is based on the novel titled Mygale, by Thierry Jonquet, first published in French and then in English with the title “Tarantula”.

As the opening phrase of the film indicates, it is set in 2012, in the city of Toledo, Spain. El Cigarral is the name of the estate/clinic where the protagonist, Robert Ledgard, lives with Marilia, his servant, and Vera, a captive, and where he makes his experiments. In fact, Robert is a plastic surgeon who, during twelve years, manages to create a flameproof skin (named Gal, like his wife) in order to help her, victim of a car crash and of a consequent terrible fire that burns her entire body, transforming the poor lady in a monster. To realize such a challenge, Robert needs three things: no scruples, a loyal accomplice and a human guinea pig. First of all, about scruples, they are not a problem because in his twisted scheme everything he does is right and everything he changes is for a good reason, maybe for love; secondly, Marilia, who knows him from the day he was born, is his most loyal accomplice who helps him to pursue his plans (although at times she doesn’t agree with his intentions); finally, all the experiments to mould a new skin, are made on Vera (even if, during a scientific meeting, he declares to use only mice for his operations). The film starts during the carnival season: while Robert is away, Zeca, Marilia’s son, after robbing a jewelry shop, reaches the estate wearing a tiger carnival costume to ask her to hide him for some days. Marilia refuses. However, once inside, Zeca sees the female captive, binds Marilia and rapes Vera. As soon as Robert arrives, he kills Zeca with his gun. While Robert hides the dead body, Marilia explains some events of Robert’s life to Vera: one day, during the recovery, Gal saw by mistake her aspect after the accident and, desperate, she took her life by jumping out of the window. Unfortunately, their daughter Norma witnessed the suicide and started suffering from depression, requiring psychiatric treatment. After this report, two parallel flashbacks begin: the six past years of Robert and the six ones of Vera. Both start with a wedding party: Norma is temporarily released from psychiatric care to go with her father to the wedding. Here, she meets Vicente, who leads her into the garden to have sex. At first Norma, very confused, doesn’t refuse the advances of the young boy, but then she begins to scream, and Vicente, not concluding the rape, hits her and runs on his motorbike, leaving the girl senseless. Robert finds Norma and wakes her up, but after that she identifies her father with the rapist. This is the beginning of the end: Norma is put again in a mental hospital and there she kills herself by jumping out of the window, just like her mother. As revenge for the rape, Robert, in disguise, kidnaps Vicente.

Only by watching the movie, will it be possible to understand why he kidnaps the poor boy, why Vera is a captive and how Marilia helps Robert: the rest of the story is shocking and nobody could expect such an ending. Being an auteur film, it is a little difficult to understand or just to follow with attention. There are many slow or silent scenes that don’t help the audience to stay focused, but at the same time there are different details so important to catch the nuances of the movie. Surely, the result is a wonderful work, maybe not just for the great direction, but most of all for the genius and the unpredictability of the story.

Carmen Romeo

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