Quite clearly, Pedro Almodóvar’s poetic Frankensteinian concept portrayed in The Skin I Live In envisions one’s feeling that the body, or to be more precise the skin, is a form of bondage to one’s mind and soul. As the director tells the story through a set of dreams and flashbacks, the audience sees Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) avenge the suspected sexual assault against his daughter by kidnaping the culprit in order to give him sex reassignment surgery, against his will. In the end, who was once a young man named Vicenté Guillén Piñeiro (Jan Cornet) becomes a beautiful woman named Vera Cruz (Elena Anaya), who is supposedly created in the image of Robert’s deceased wife.
Particularly common with many other Almodóvar films, there is an element of the male gaze as viewed through CCTV cameras. As Robert watches and slowly falls in love with Vera, it becomes more and more apparent that he is abusing his skills as a plastic surgeon to unfairly toy with someone else’s life, entirely for his personal benefit. The film reminds us of how women’s commercial beauty standards are partly a product of a man’s desire. This is mirrored in the art work that is spread around the doctor’s mansion such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538) and Velázquez’ The Rokeby Venus (c. 1947), which reference a nude woman reclining on a couch or bed, a pose which Vera often recreates through the screen.
Almodóvar touches on several big issues surrounding the current political situation we all live in, but one which is most prominent is the theme of sexual identity. As Vera’s true sex is revealed, one can’t help but understand how many individuals view their gendered body’s as a cell from their true identity.
Overall, while many will find this disturbing to watch, Almodóvar folds several issues into the skin of this film, ones that unfortunately exist in today’s society.
The Skin I Live In
director PEDRO ALMODÓVAR
director of photography JOSÉ LUIS ALCAINE
cast ANTONIO BANDERAS, ELENA ANAYA, MARISA PAREDES, JAN CORNET and ROBERTO ÁLAMO
words PRIYESH PATEL
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