The Skin I Live In

Kim Sigouin

At times, we, the audience, must wonder what inspires a director, a writer, and actor to pursue a certain film. At the same time, we must ask ourselves what drives us to the cinema. I recently saw the film, The Skin I Live In, featuring Antonio Banderas as a studious doctor (Robert Ledgard) helpless to the needs of his psychologically traumatized daughter, but persistent in his aim to punish the boy who so mistreated her. If you watch the trailer, you get the sense that Banderas is simply a mad man, obsessed with his work, and eager to achieve the impossible through science and medical discovery. But as you sit down to watch the film you realize that there is more to this story than meets the trailer. The plot can, at times, be so farfetched, that one is compelled to laugh at the dramatic circumstances of the characters rather than sympathize with their misfortunes. The dialogue, as well, can move you to laughter. The writing is often melodramatic, leaving the film to appear more like a soap opera than a thriller. Jumping from present to past then back to present makes the film a little choppy, but it has its perks. It keeps you guessing until about half-way through the movie, the secret is revealed (and oh what a secret it is!) and you realize that there is more behind the mysterious, restless leading lady (Elena Anaya) than you expected.

The film begins with a brief introduction to the characters, making the audience crave more. Elena Anaya gives us a sympathetic portrayal of a young, helpless woman, Vera Cruz, trapped in a room. Ledgard observes her through a camera and waits on her as he chooses. Although the erotic relationship between the two characters is highlighted early on, we know first and foremost that she is his creation and subject to medical procedures until she obtains an image of perfection, a perfection that Banderas once had in the form of his wife who committed suicide. His obsession with the body is poignant as large canvas portraits of nude women decorate the walls of his house. Among this collection of portraits is a large television screen on which his medical experiment, Cruz, is projected.

The dark, suspenseful atmosphere further emphasized by the brooding, detached protagonist lends itself to the genre of a psychological thriller. However, the conflicting relationship between the characters, driven by passion and obsession rather than genuine emotion, and the writing that fails to effectively depict an authentic relationship between characters lend itself to comedy. The film, presenting a clichéd theme of inner beauty in a world that focuses so much on outer beauty and sex, is difficult to take seriously. But as I cannot tell you to rush off to the cinema to see this film, I cannot keep you from it either. After all, who doesn’t like a good outrageous film that makes you feel empty inside?