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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

‘The Skin I Live In’: Pedro Almodóvar’s Provocative Treatise on Gender, Identity and Obsession

Movie poster for the Spanish film The Skin I Live In starring Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya

“The Skin I live In” (“La Piel Que Habito”) is a provocative Spanish-language drama/thriller from 2011 that stars Antonio Banderas as Robert Ledgard, a plastic surgeon who has developed a ground-breaking form of highly resistant artificial skin he entitles “GAL”. When he discloses to his professional colleagues that he has experimented with the innovative apparatus on humans, however, he is condemned entirely and banned from all further research.

Retreating to his secluded estate in the Spanish countryside, Ledgard is revealed to be imprisoning a mysterious young woman named Vera (Elena Anaya) with the assistance of his servant Marilia (Marisa Paredes). After the fateful intervention of Marilia’s son Zeca (Roberto Álamo), Marilia confesses to be the mother to both men—a disclosure that ultimately encompasses the previous death of Robert’s young wife Gal as well as their daughter Norma in separate tragic instances. Marked by devastation and disillusionment, Ledgard is incontrovertibly driven to employ his GAL methodology in the most revolutionary and desperate of manners.

Based on the novel “Tarantula: The Skin I Live In” by French author Thierry Jonquet and directed by Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar (“Talk to Her”, “Pain and Glory”), “The Skin I live In” is an arresting foray into the darker machinations of the human psyche, piecing together past and present in a complex arrangement of revelations and macabre transgressions. Benefitting best from Almodóvar’s resolutely steadfast hand at the wheel, even in it’s most disquieting moments, it’s an entirely enthralling cinematic endeavor marked by tragedy, obsession and astonishing reinvention.


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