Sunday, 26 February 2012

Warning: Thieves Operate In This Hospital [Review: The Skin I Live In]

Surgeons are the new zombies!

The last few years have done a lot to raise the profile of Evil Medical School, particularly the surgical department. Mr. Josef Heiter’s pioneering work in the field of humancentipedial surgery has been celebrated in Tom Six’s two highly educational and tasteful films. Now Heiter’s classmate, Mr. Robert Ledgard stars in Pedro Almodovar’s extremely dark film “The Skin I Live In” – winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 BAFTAs. Principal Frank’n’Furter would be proud, if he wasn’t still on sabbatical in Transylvania.

Ledgard, played by Antonio Banderas, is an acclaimed surgeon and researcher. Following the death of his wife in a fire, he is pioneering an artificial skin replacement which will be fireproof – but as it is a transgenic tissue, his research is controversial and might be shut down.

He claims to have tested the skin on mice but the Ledgard home is full of secret laboratories and operating theatres. He keeps a beautiful but strange woman, Vera, locked in a room under CCTV observation, and he has already given her several skin transplants. Vera is played enigmatically by Elena Anaya. Is she held against her will, or has she submitted to captivity out of love for Ledgard?

Ledgard’s mother also lives in the house and works for Ledgard as his housekeeper. The unexpected arrival of a man dressed as a tiger, on the run after a robbery, shakes up the situation and brings back the past – in a series of discussions and flashbacks we learn that the fire was only the start of the Ledgard family tragedy, while Vera turns out to be far more than just a captive lab-rat.

The Skin I Live In equals the darkness of Tom Six’s work without ever resorting to bad taste. With a steadier hand at the tiller, performances and production in this film are outstanding. It’s also a departure from Almodovar’s usual bright, clashing colours - instead the palette is dominated by pastels, skin tones and surgical blues or greys.

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