Wednesday 12 February 2014

The Skin I Live In - film review

When I read about Pedro Almodovar's film The Skin I Live In, the premise reminded me of Eyes Without a Face, the scary movie based on a creepy novel by those brilliant French writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. In fact, The Skin I Live In is based (quite loosely, I gather) on a book by a different French writer, Thierry Jonquet. The plot is very different from the earlier film and book, even though they both concern a brilliant plastic surgeon. But it's just as creepy.

I don't want to say too much about the plot, because there are some startling twists. Suffice to say that the film begins with a young and beautiful woman (played by Elena Anaya) who appears to be kept captive in the home of a very wealthy and controversial plastic surgeon (Antonia Banderas). There is a rather enigmatic housekeeper (Marisa Parades) and some other servants in the house. When the other servants are sent away, bad stuff starts to happen.

The story is complicated, and a good deal of the key events are revealed in dream-like flashbacks. The flashback device can be irritating and cumbersome, but I think Almodovar gets away with it very well. I found the storyline compelling, and even though this film does not flinch from sexual violence,I don't think it is handled in a gratuitously and offensive fashion, disturbing and shocking as it is. I decided to watch the film again, to spot the clues I'd missed, and found this rewarding - it added to my enjoyment of a remarkable movie, albeit one that will not be to everyone's taste.

I've only seen a few Almodovar films, but those I have watched persuade me that hey deserves his formidable reputation as a director. He's not a crime specialist, but he's adapted Ruth Rendell's Live Flesh as well as Jonquet's book. As for Jonquet, I confess I'd never heard of him,but having been impressed by the film,I looked him up. Sadly, he died relatively young not long ago, but I'd like to read the book on which this film is based and perhaps some of his other work.

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