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Film Review 

The Skin I Live In

Written and Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar

(based on Thierry Jonquet’s Tarantula)

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, Roberto Álamo and Blanca Suárez


A genius plastic surgeon, haunted by the tragedies of his past, creates a synthetic skin that can withstand any damage that he’s tested on an imprisoned patient. His guinea pig is a strange and erratic woman whose origin reveals the mystery of their past.

In my original review here I said:

The Skin I Live in I felt like someone threw a bucket of cold water over me. I was sharp. I was agonising over every twist and turn. I was shuffling in my seat. I was feeling physical reactions to the scenes and quite simply I was impressed with Banderas’ strikingly nuanced performance under the incredible direction of Almodóvar.

The Skin I Live In does not lose any of its potency on DVD, and I loved being able to share it with someone that hadn’t seen the film. As my lady watched transfixed, I couldn’t wait to talk to her about it. I sat for a second time agonising over the depth of Banderas’ Roberto. Banderas’ facile, intense performance doesn’t allow you an easy binary choice of loving or hating the character. You’re left to examine and agonize over his predicament and to investigate and question his motivations and actions. When his secrets are revealed (in my second viewing) I relished the amount of time that Almodóvar forces you to endure the depths of the situation.

At the core of the mystery is Elena Anaya’s performance as Vera. It was my favourite performance from a female actor last year. It requires a certain aloof detachment and aesthetic perfection that gradually gets unpacked as her character is revealed. Almodóvar’s unpacks Vera in a slow reveal that feels like you’re looking at a sample of her perfect skin at full magnification at the beginning of the film and by the end you’re presented with her whole form – and the stark difference between those two points leaves an indelible affect.

I’m sure that you’ve realised by now that I’m intentionally with-holding the details of this story. It’s impossible to mention anything that isn’t going to ruin the film for you. This film affected me. Out with my lady discussing the second viewing Almodóvar puts you through a moral roller coaster and all I can say is that you simply must see it. It won’t sit easily with you; you won’t have a relaxed or easy viewing. It will challenge you – and you’ll realise the power of the film medium.

Almodóvar is an auteur of the highest order. His films, but especially Skin, are enriched by an additional viewing.

The Skin I Live In lost the shock and awe of the original viewing; but the second time around I found myself disorientated by the depths of the disturbance of Banderas’ Roberto and dizzying journey of Anaya’s Vera. The Skin I Live In is one to own, to share and to endure.


Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman

The Skin I Live In  is released on DVD in Australia on the 23rd of May 2012.

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