The latest release from Spanish cinema giant Pedro Almodovar, The Skin I Live In depicts an eccentric and brilliant plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who illegally experiments with transgenesis – the process of introducing a foreign gene into another organism – in a bid to enhance the recovery of burn victims.

In his illustrious home he keeps a prisoner (Elena Anaya), though his motives for doing so are unclear until later in the film. As the story begins to evolve in a distinctly non-linear fashion we quickly learn that this will be a surreal experience. Blending elements of horror, mystery and psychological thriller, Almodovar deliberately toys with his audience, keeping us uncomfortable throughout.

Ironically this discomfort sometimes manifests itself as enjoyment, though it also exemplifies the film’s one major flaw – the lack of empathy the audience has with any of the characters or events. Everything depicted is so surreal that it’s difficult to associate it with regular life, meaning we merely remain distant spectators to the narrative onscreen. The characters themselves are, to a man, clinically insane. As the protagonist’s mother (Marisa Paredes) says, “I’ve got insanity in my entrails” – and she herself is no traditional voice-of-reason mother figure, as she also plays a part in the carnage of lunacy that takes place.

As fans of Almodovar have come to expect, the production is stylish and vibrant. In particular the soundtrack shines, mixing powerful classical music with upbeat, techno sounds to create a score that is both immersive and modern. The cinematography is seamless, the sets are elaborately and richly conceived, and the performances are virtually faultess, combining to make an impressive picture. Banderas in particular commands the screen, his presence filling every shot with slick charisma and an intense, manic persona.

The Skin I Live In is an aesthetically pleasing film that will keep your interest levels high right until the very end with its complex and unpredictable narrative. A tale of obsession and devotion, this is a cinematic experience that will leave you thoroughly entertained.

Tom Grater

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