The Skin I Live In
Repulsive portrait of a doctor that is, to put it mildly, without a moral compass. Dr. Robert Ledgard is a renowned plastic surgeon that has just developed a new more durable synthetic skin. He’s testing this breakthrough on an attractive young woman named Vera in his vast mansion.
The movie is puzzling from a dramatic standpoint. Just who exactly is this woman that the doctor keeps locked up in a room? Additionally we’re introduced to a criminal in a tiger suit, a housekeeper who also happens to be Robert’s mother, his daughter Norma and a man who works in a dress shop. Director Pedro Almodóvar reveals things slowly. This admittedly helps keep interest in the story. As information is uncovered however, the plot becomes increasingly irrational. Once you realize who this mystery woman is and her back-story, it makes the doctor’s obsession with her difficult to fully comprehend. He commits acts that are maliciously evil in nature then shows signs of desire and adoration. He is most assuredly insane, yes, but the narrative doesn’t try to reconcile his maniacal behavior. It only presents his conduct and it’s simply too much of a stretch to accept.
Almodóvar’s fixation on human flesh unsettles and is unsettling. If one asserts that Brian De Palma referenced the sexual ideas in Hitchcock’s Psycho when he made Dressed to Kill, then Almodóvar completely perverts De Palma’s obsessions past the breaking point. Almodóvar has always been concerned with identity, sexuality and gender. But here he has abused his preoccupations into horror. I’ll admit that Almodóvar’s storytelling talents are never in doubt. The film has a gorgeous facade. The set design, cinematography and music, promote a lush setting that belies something much more sinister. It’s a stylish mix to be sure. The tale grabs your attention, but then so does a ghastly accident. Peel back the artistic flourishes and we’re left with a sophisticated version of The Human Centipede with art house pretensions.
Dramatically The Skin I Live In fails to answer key questions. It remains at heart a superficial trip within the mind of a sicko. Given that premise, the motivations and the reactions of the characters should make sense. This isn’t the case. Robert’s desires are hard to believe. His lack of scruples are further disquieting. How did he develop this personality? There’s precious little insight into his abhorrent behavior. The script really doesn’t have anything to truly explain about this psychopath, other than to offer there are some really messed up people in the world.