Movie Title: La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In)
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Date Released: May 19th, 2011 Cannes Film Festival
Date Seen: August 31st, 2012
Country of Origin: Spain
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
Do you ever get done watching something and have that whole conflicted “that was awesome but wtf did I just watch” type feeling? Yep, I had that with this movie. And that is a great thing. I loved it. I DID NOT see what was happening coming AT ALL. Sometimes when you tell a person, oh you’ll never guess the ending – then it’s super easy to guess the ending. But just simply the way the movie is set up (present – past – present – past and leading up to present) it makes it almost impossible. I thought it was fantastically done. The acting was great, no shocker there, considering everyone knows that Antonio Banderas is amazing. Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes were also incredible.
The movie is a little bit slow at first, but I honestly think it’s necessary. You don’t get the sense of all that’s really going on with the beginning of the movie – so that when things start to speed up you’re even more engrossed in the story because you want to know what all is happening. It was a good job on Almodóvar’s part. I have noticed in other movies of his, he does seem to do that. It’s kind of slow then a holy-shit-series of events happen. Which I’m ok with.
So the movie was great, go watch it becuase it will have you thinking about right and wrong for a while… how far is too far to go? WHEN does the line get crossed between justifiable revenge and pure torture?
Part 2 – In-Depth Spoiler Ridden Review
This movie is strange because of how it’s set up. The first part of the movie we simply see Vera (Elena Anaya) locked up, being waited on by Marilia (Marisa Paredes). Other than being locked up it appears that Vera is happy. She is kept locked up by Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) who is a fantastic plastic surgeon. He has been working on a synthetic skin and testing it on Vera to withstand burns, insect bites, etc.
We slowly learn about the history between the three people when an unexpected visitor shows up – Zeca, Marilias son. He manages to convince his mom to let him visit – and then ties her up and discovers Vera locked up. He gets in the room and starts to rape her. Marilia is left to watch on the video monitors. Robert arrives home and goes in and shoots Zeca. Marilia also wanted Robert to “shoot her” because “she (Vera) looks too much like someone (don’t know who yet)”. Marilia doesn’t like that Robert is so attached to Elena. Robert cleans up the mess and for the first time, in we don’t know how long, Vera is let out of the room. Marilia tells her about how she raised Robert as a servant, but really, she is his mother. He doesn’t know that. So she is always trying to look after him. She also tells Vera about his horrible past. His wife ran off with Zeca and they were in a car wreck. The wife got hideous burns all over her body. Robert tried to fix her, but one day she caught a glimpse of herself in a window and then jumped out of it. This caused her daughter Norma, who was playing in the yard below, to go a little crazy.
That night while Robert and Vera go to bed (together oh-oh!) we start seeing flashbacks. This is where the story took a super interesting turn. It’s presented in a slightly different way in the movie, but here’s the short and gritty of what happened:
6 years ago – a man, Vicente (Jan Cornet), is seen at his mothers clothing shop and then leaving to go to a party. At the party Robert and his daughter Norma are attending. We later find out that this was one of Norma’s first “outings” after having been institutionalized for social phobia. Robert sees the boy eyeing his daughter but gets distracted – and later notices that they are gone. He goes out to the garden. In the garden all the young boys are hooking up with young girls. Norma is very awkward with Vicente, and he asks her if she is on drugs. She lists off all her prescriptions and he says “oh good, because I’m high too!” They then start to make out, but Vicente takes it a little bit too far and starts to rape her. Norma screams and Vicente slaps her hard enough to knock her out. He pulls her panties back up and puts her clothes back on and then rides off on his motorcycle. Robert sees the motorcycle ride off and gets it plates. He then finds Norma, passed out. He wakes her up and she screams bloody murder. Sometime later, we see her in a hospital. When Robert comes in the room she goes and hides in a closet – according to the doctor she doesn’t recognize her father and just associates him with the rape, even though he didn’t do it. A short time after that, Norma jumps out the window of her hospital room and dies.
So Robert, to enact his revenge – kidnaps Vicente. For a while he keeps him alone, chained up, with only water. Then he gives him a desk and some food and occasionally visits. Then one day he shaves Vicente and knocks him out. Robert brings over some of his plastic surgeon friends and shows them the documents saying that this boy wants this surgery (so obviously they’re faked). They preform the surgery on him… and when Vicente wakes up…. he now has a vagina. Oh snap. A couple of days later Robert comes into Vicentes room and gives him some dilators to make sure and keep the new hole open. In my mind right there, that is the worst torture ever. Hey, I know you had a penis but haha not anymore, here’s a vagina.
After the vagina…. Vicente gets boobs.
After the boobs… Vicente gets a new face…. and becomes Vera. OH SNAP.
So that’s the big twist. We see a few more days of Vera gaining trust and even going out with Marilia to buy some stuff at a store. That night, Robert and Vera are having sex. Vera leaves to go get some lube from her purse, and also grabs Roberts gun. She shoots Robert and Marilia when she comes to investigate. The movie ends with Vera now going back to her moms clothing store for an awkward reunion.
I loved this movie. Even though the beginning was a little slow at first, it picked up and had me hooked. I couldn’t bear to look away. It also makes you think a lot. Who do you feel sorry for? The rapist who had was then tortured in a sick way and forever changed? Or the man whose daughter was raped but then took the torture too far?