The Skin I Live in
Spanish Language Edition
DVD + Blu-ray
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Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is a driven plastic surgeon haunted by personal tragedies. After many years of trial and error, he finally perfects a new skin – a shield which could have prevented the death of his wife in an accident years earlier. His latest “guinea pig” is a mysterious captive whose true identity masks a shocking mystery. The Skin I Live In is a masterful tale of secrets, obsession and revenge from Oscar-winning (Best Writing, Original Screenplay, Talk to Her, 2002) writer/director Pedro Almodovar.
For his maiden voyage into horror, Spanish maestro Pedro Almodóvar leaves the gore behind for a plunge into truly disturbing territory. If he suggests more than he shows, the human body still takes center stage, starting with Toledo plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (a chillingly understated Antonio Banderas), who did his best to restore his wife to her former glory after a fiery car crash, only to have his efforts be in vain. Since then, he's concentrated on a skin substitute that repels damage. Like Dr. Frankenstein, he's a single-minded obsessive, and even his housekeeper, Marilia (Marisa Paredes), describes him as "crazy," but that doesn't dim her devotion to him any less. After tragedy reenters Ledgard's life, he finds the perfect subject on which to test out his superhuman skin. Almodóvar begins in the present before backtracking six years to explain how Vera (Elena Anaya) came to Ledgard's attention. Now, he keeps her locked in a room through which he observes her every move via surveillance cameras and one-way glass. At all times, she wears a surprisingly flattering body stocking in order to heal properly, and spends her days reading Alice Munro novels and making Louise Bourgeois-inspired sculptures until Marilia's hotheaded son drops by, at which point the household dynamics spin out of control. In adapting Thierry Jonquet's Tarantula, Almodóvar has embarked on his most perfectly controlled project. Like the lovely Vera, the film offers cool, attractive surfaces, but the secret behind the woman and the world she inhabits will chill you to the bone. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Q&A with Director Pedro Almodovar
On the Red Carpet: New York Premiere
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Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) lives in a mansion with his servant: Marilla (Marisa Paredes) is the head of the household and happens to be Robert's mother as well - Roberto having been raised by the family for whom Marilla was working at the time the head of the household impregnated her. Robert is a plastic surgeon and has committed his teaching and research and creativity towards perfecting a type of skin that sustain fire, cuts, and insects, and despite the lack of backing of his prestigious colleagues to extend this work toward work with humans, Robert is working in secret in his home trying to devise a skin that would have helped his late wife severely burned in an auto accident. His patient in progress is Vera Cruz (Elena Anaya) on whom Robert works day and night to perfect his `invention' of perfect skin. In a typical Almodóvar move, a strange man in a tiger costume (for Carnival) arrives at Robert's home: Zeca (Roberto Álamo) is a criminal on the run, needs money, happens to be the other son of Marilla, and is the one responsible for the fiery accident that disfigured Robert's wife who subsequently committed suicide when after surviving the accident sees her own distorted image in a window and leaps to her death.
The film takes us back six years to explain the events: Robert's daughter Norma (Blanca Suárez) has been hospitalized and medicated for mental illness since she observed her mother's suicide. But she goes to a party where she is desired by a young lad Vicente (Jan Cornet) and in the throes of drugs the two enter into an attempted sexual liaison that is discovered by Roberto. What happens after this is best left unsaid as the key to the terror of the film has begun and sharing more would deprive the viewer of the suspense and brilliance of the script.
The story was adapted by Pedro Almodóvar and Agustín Almodóvar from a French novel `Tarantula' by Thierry Jonquet, the phenomenal musical score was written by Alberto Iglesias, and the haunting cinematography is the work of José Luis Alcaine. Blessed with a cast of magnificent actors (Almodóvar's usual entourage plus more) Pedro Almodóvar directs this fascinating film to new heights, even for him. The story is complex and while it is bizarre in almost every aspect, it remains a film that explores the human psyche, the power of love, revenge, and the extremes seemingly ordinary people will go if motivated. It is a brilliant film that only grow better with repeated viewings. Grady Harp, March 12