September 16, 2012

The Skin I Live In (2011)

(AKA La piel que habito)

"A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession."

Far be it from me to suggest that internationally acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar copied Matt Eskandari's "Victim" (2010), but I had an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu when I watched "The Skin I Live In". Give or take a few minor details and a lot more money, they are both essentially the same story.

Apparently, the reason for the similarities is that both movies were based on "Mygale", a French crime novel by Thierry Jonquet which was first published in 1984. I don't know how true that is because I haven't read it. It still seems suspicious to me that both directors waited around sixteen years before making their adaptations, but maybe it was merely synchronism.

"The Skin I Live In" is certainly the better of the two movies dramatically although, I hasten to add, I thoroughly enjoyed "Victim" too. In fact, if really pushed on the subject, I'd have to admit that purely for entertainment value, I enjoyed "Victim" a lot more. "The Skin I Live In" is too slick somehow and there is no real horror in it apart from ideas involved in the subject matter.

One of the huge differences between "Victim" and "The Skin I Live In" is that Elena Anaya plays the transformed victim in the latter. I don't want to give away the plot too much because I know that there are still some of you who haven't seen this, but that is a very severe change which I think is done more realistically in "Victim". The captive of "Victim" also deserves what happens a lot more.

Pedro Almodóvar has admitted that he was also inspired by "Eyes Without a Face" (1960) although, in fairness, there are even bigger differences between the two stories. The homage is actually quite subtle since "The Skin I Live In" has more dramatic and tragic elements rather than horror.

The cinematography is, of course, outstanding with all the steady, well-framed scenes, that you would expect. There are still quite a few flaws because of the almost surreal nature of the situation, and possibly, because Antonio Banderas isn't all that believable as a surgeon. Antonio Banderas has a gift for being more traditionally comedic than the still very dark comedy of this movie required, but I appreciated that he played things as straight as he could.

As a "non-horror" with a horror theme, "The Skin I Live In" is a difficult film to rate overall. As just a Pedro Almodóvar movie, it's one of his better ones and very enjoyable. As a horror, it doesn't have a lot of gore or scares so it's quite weak. I'm going to rate it as "average", but the quotation marks are very important. It's a great film which simply didn't conform to the rules of the horror genre enough to score any higher.

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