Illustration: Adeline Pericart
We laughed, we cried, we sneaked in our own popcorn. 2011 brought with it some memorable trips to the cinema to revel in the joy of film. And so the Film Ireland collection of filmbots look back in love and recall their favourite films of the last year in the latest installment of…
The Skin I Live
( Pedro Almodóvar)
‘… maybe my favourite Almodovar film of all time …’
As a longtime fan of Pedro Almodóvar’s films my expectations are always high when he releases a new film. The Skin I Live In gave us a trailer that teased a lot but answered nothing and so I had little expectation of what I was in for when the movie started, but I was definitely intrigued!
What can I say about the film without spoiling it? How can I possibly convey the sheer beauty and masterful storytelling on display here without giving away major plot points? Ideally, I want audiences to go in to this film knowing as little as I did and getting wrapped up in the world Almodóvar creates without trying to guess the plot twists and to delight in the developing story without second guessing the logic. It’s science fiction, but a most elegant example of the genre.
Antonio Banderas plays a rather unhinged scientist who is keeping a beautiful young woman prisoner in his home while using her as a human guinea pig for a new type of synthetic human skin. That’s about as much information as you need. As the story unfolds, petal by petal in that flower-like way we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Almodovar, each scene adds wonder and flavour to an already robust set-up. Moving at a break-neck pace, not a frame is without beauty and not a second is wasted without pushing the story along. This screenplay is extremely polished and beautifully nuanced.
Swapping his usual primary colour palette for a more subdued steely grey tone fused with fleshy beiges achieves an uncharacteristic, almost Cronenbergian feel to the cinematography. Despite toning down the colours, Jose Luis Alcaine delivers wonderfully vibrant visuals and makes the best of the limited locations that are used.
In a film that relies on ambiguity in so many ways the cast here must be commended. Delicate balances are achieved by all concerned and it’s wonderful to see Antonio Banderas settling into the rather unsettling role of Dr. Robert Ledgard. He exudes the same charisma and sexual bravura that made him famous but without the least whiff of sex symbol status coming through in the performance. He is creepy, strangely alluring and underplays the ‘mad scientist’ bit admirably. Elena Anayas also impresses in a very challenging performance both physically and emotionally, both of which are perfectly effective as her story unfolds. A brilliant character who may not have been so impressive in the hands of a less capable actress. The camera intimately caresses her face and body throughout and she steadfastly rises to the challenge of being as beautiful a muse as a director could ask for.
2011 was a year that didn’t deliver a tremendous amount of great cinema but the great cinema was really incredible and I think 2011 gave us some future classics, not least of which is The Skin I Live In, maybe my favourite Almodóvar film of all time…and that’s saying a lot.