The Skin I Live In or La piel que habito to give it its original Spanish title comes courtesy of Pedro Almodóvar (Broken Embraces, Volver), and stars Antonio Banderas as a ground-breaking surgeon, and Elena Anaya as his ground-breaking patient.
Living together in the same house, it is difficult to tell how exactly what the relationship between the two lead characters is. As food gets delivered through a hatch to Vera, we wonder whether she is a prisoner, although the affection between Vera and Robert suggests otherwise.
It is not really until the beginning of the second act as we flashback to various times in both Vera’s and Robert’s lives that we begin to understand the complexities of their relationship and just how ground-breaking Robert’s work is.
Almodóvar skilfully combines Hitchcockian tension with a Cronenberg-esque love of body horror to bring a remarkable and uncomfortable film to our screens. As we slowly realise the true nature of the two characters we are watching, the truth is difficult to comprehend at first, and also masterfully revealed through the film’s excellent use of structure.
Other films would not have spent so long in the present to begin with as Almodóvar did. However, it is through this time of being fascinated yet clueless about the conversations and events before our eyes, that the events of the second and third acts really impact us as an audience.
Perhaps the only real criticism of the film is the fact it lacks universal appeal. I could hear the audible relief and disgust from some cinema goers as the film ended. Clearly they had never seen any early Cronenberg, or prepared themselves for the creepiness of the previous two hours. This is certainly not a film your grandmother will enjoy despite its deceptively stylish and unblemished opening minutes.
The Skin I Live In is a film its difficult to describe without giving too much away. However, its a film fans of body horror will love, and fans of tension, plot and intrigue will also love. Just make sure you’re not with an elderly relative when you go and see it.