Are you comfortable in your own skin? Stripped back to nothing but our personalities and experiences, who do we turn into? Exposed to the blinding horrors of reality, we engage with and try our best to cover up the fragile and the meaningful with broad strokes of costumes and larger than life experiences. The Skin I Live In is an oddity of passionate filmmaking and dark, foreboding secrets. We all have secrets, but I’m sure none of us out there have secrets large enough to keep secluded in our hidden laboratories or villas. Nor do we hire staff to keep those secrets from revealing themselves. Still, if we had the money or need to do so, we most probably would.
An incredibly twisted performance from Antonio Banderas gives us a film with such menacing ideals. The man that brought you Spy Kids, Puss in Boots and Dolittle has also offered us one of the most stunning performances of grief ever put to film. The fixation of Dr. Robert Ledgard (Banderas) makes for a tantalising tale of freakish horrors. His erratic desire to remove sensibilities from his life and replace it with a fixation on progress is terrifying. Forget your tense fascinations with what might be lurking in the dark, or the hidden affairs between man and wife, The Skin I Live In prefers to divert our attention to the secrets of a grieving man and his passion project. We’re all passionate about moments in our lives, but the passion turns into obsession rather suddenly in this one.
Pedro Almodóvar impresses me greatly here. Far more than Pain and Glory could manage. The darker tone and pangs of strange pockets of science fiction make for a truly unique thriller. As a director, I do believe Almodóvar has a knack for the craft, his use of shadows in particular a resounding triumph of his work. But I’ve never been blown away by what Almodóvar has to offer, and The Skin I Live In is far from spectacular in an artistic sense. Not static or unrewarding, stable enough to bring us a compelling main story, but there are times where the cast feel like they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
Almodóvar presents the wonderfully chilling idea that we’re impenetrable if we ourselves are not genuine. Synthetic layers of faux material form a defensive shell for those most fearful of the real world. Ledgard has a fear of his world being breached, the rather twisted ideas and inventions he concocts from the comfort of his own home are innovative to the world of science, but regressive to the emotive state of our protagonists. An unpredictable spiral for our leading man, his dark past secluded by a desire for perfection. How and why he wants it is integral and shrouded in mystery, but more worrying is the lengths he will go to with such a strange fixation.