Antonio Banderas plays a ruthless doctor in a steamy sci-fi horror directed by Pedro Almodovar. Interested? You should be. The Skin I Live In has so many ideas, twists, and unexpected delights in its 120 minute runtime that to try and second-guess this film would be a mistake. It is guaranteed that when you begin this film, you will not be able to predict the next plot point, let alone predict the ending.
The film is about Dr. Ledgard – Antonia Banderas – and his work to create a brand new skin substitute that is impervious to injury, burns, lesions and the like. This is frowned upon by the scientific community when it is revealed that his tests – despite his initial claims that the skin was tested on athymic mice – are actually being performed on a human subject. The film uses this as a jumping-off point and tells us the story of how Ledgard came to acquire his human subject, and how their relationship has come to this stage over the last six years.
Almodovar’s stock in trade is luscious and female-friendly cinema. Even when what he’s dealing with would seem misogynistic and sexist in the hands of a less cautious and talented film-maker – scenes of violent sex and violence towards women in general feature throughout this film – the film still remains reasonably light and fun. The Skin I Live In is deliberately over-the-top, deliberately melodramatic, and deliberately twisted, in all the right ways.
To say that Antonia Banderas’s performance as the ruthless Dr. Ledgard is good would be an enormous understatement. Never before has Banderas – not known for psychopathic violence – ever seemed so terrifyingly calm, quiet, and knowing. He’s scheming, he’s devious, he’s loving, and he’s charming. He’s a loving father and a vicious sadist. The fact that he can convincingly present us with all of this shows just how talented an actor he really is, when he wants to be.
It’s a Spanish horror sci-fi with the usual lush features of an Almodovar film – what’s not to like?