Movie review – Brilliant study of coming into focus

2012-01-20 08:45

Film: The Skin I Live In
(Ster Kinekor)
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Featuring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Jan Cornet
Rating: 8/10

This is a difficult film to review because for any other viewer to get the full impact I have to keep its secrets.

But suffice it to say, it is unmissable for Pedro Almodovar fans and Oscar followers should see it as it’s a front-runner for Best Foreign Language Film this year.

Almodovar is Spain’s greatest contemporary director and The Skin I Live In is further evidence of that. It’s also his third consecutive film to be nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes and his fourth overall.

His films, including Broken Embraces, Volver and All About My Mother, explore the human condition – particularly the female one – with an uncanny insight that is at times hilarious, at others downright tragic, but always authentic.

Buying popcorn and mindlessly munching it through an Almodovar creation and forgetting it when the credits roll is never an option. You need to take a friend so you can go for coffee after the movie has ended and talk it through, argue the points and digest the shock.

Antonio Banderas is Robert Ledgard, a brilliant plastic surgeon who has become a recluse working obsessively on one project – to perfect synthetic human skin that can withstand any kind of damage. His only company is a loyal housekeeper and a mysterious young woman called Vera (Elena Anaya) who is his guinea pig.

Tormented by tragedy that is only hinted at as the film begins, Robert, as a character, is expertly, excrutiatingly revealed – thin layer by thin layer.

Similarly Vera starts out as an enigma, not only to the audience but seemingly to Robert too, but she too comes into sharper focus ever so slowly.

Almodovar studies character, how it is formed – or malformed – by the choices we make and the experiences that come from those choices. He also explores secrets and the terrible price that keeping them can extract.

Banderas gives a truly magnificent performance – creating a character that is at once seductively smart and handsome, yet with a shadow of the kind of sadness that is also madness.

As is his habit, many of the actors have worked with Almodovar before and Anaya – previous featured in the Oscar- winning Talk to Her – is mesmerising.

She constantly keeps the audience and Robert guessing about who she really is and what she feels – sometimes she feels like a shadow of a person.

The Skin I Live In, like his previous film Broken Embraces, has no place for his trademark black humour.

This is a tragic story of damaged people.

Yet, in his unique style, it is exquisitely wrought and has an edge-of-your-seat quality rare in this genre of film. A triumph of filmmaking in every way.

» Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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