Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito)

The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito) - ***

Directed by: Pedro Almadovar

Starring:  Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet, Marisa Paredes

Review:  Well, this was a ridiculously messed up movie.  I think…I think… it’s messed up in a good way.  If David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick had a love child who turned out to be Spanish I think he would end up being Pedro Almadovar.  Without seeing any of Almadovar’s other films The Skin I live In shows me that he has mastered not only the strange subject matter (Lynch) but has shown the expertise and care of his craft to make it apparent that every shot has a purpose (Kubrick).

The plot of this film is sticky at best.  There is unrequited love, mixed with revenge, mixed with depression, mixed with a weird Frankenstein angle to wrap it all together.  The film goes to great lengths to be vague so I will do the same and save the real details of the plot. 

Basically, Robert (Banderas) keeps a woman against her will on his premises.  There are allusions to how she “looks too much like her.”  We don’t really know who they are referring to or if this is something that’s intentional.  Was this woman kidnapped?  Why do they say “she looks too much like her” when that appears to be something outside of Roberts control?

Eventually we learn that Robert is a world-renown plastic surgeon and the plot thickens.  While we have no proof yet, Robert could have used his vast skills to make this person look like someone he held dear.  Whether this is a wife, a daughter, a girlfriend, a friend, none of that is clear.  What is made clear through a speech Robert gives at a conference is that he has studied facial reconstruction and even facial transplants extensively.

That’s where I will leave the plot.  There is enough there to make it quite intriguing.  Almadovar show’s some deft skill in wrapping together all these plots into this one movie.  There are lots of different emotions and themes at play and Almadovar is able make sure the movie stays on point.  Some of the different aspects can get confusing, but those are done intentionally by the director. 

What makes this a solid film is the care the director takes.  Not a scene of this movie is wasted.  Every second has a large impact not only on the plot but on the characters involved.  It isn’t made apparent how it will affect everything, but eventually it is made clear. 

While there are multiple themes abound in this film, the overarching one tends to be obsession.  Robert is obsessed with an idea.  His life has gone astray in all the wrong places.  He doesn’t yearn for what his life became, he yearns for what his life once was.  At least, what he thought his life once was.  It is this obsession and his attempt to get back there that drives him to do things he is not proud of.

Anything that gets in the way of Robert accomplishing his goal, is destroyed.  He doesn’t reflect on what drove him to do these things, he simply recognizes them to an impediment to his goal.  He was wronged in his life before and the universe owes it to him to make it right.  All his transgressions will be forgiven when things are placed back in balance yet again.

This review might not make much sense but once you see the film the pieces will fall into place much more.

If you are into interesting, offbeat, quality cinema this is worth your time.  If you are just looking for some good entertainment that you don’t have to think too much about, steer clear of this one.

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