A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
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In honor of his late wife who died in a flaming car accident, scientist, Dr. Robert Ledgard, is trying to synthesize the perfect skin which can withstand burns, cuts or any other kind of damage. As he gets closer to perfecting this skin on his flawless patient, the scientific community starts growing skeptical and his past is revealed that shows how his patient is closely linked to tragic events he would like to forget. Written by
One of the books in Vera's room is "Angel at My Table" by Janet Frame. This book is an autobiographical account of how she grew from someone, in the author's own words, "as sexless as a stick of wood", to an appreciation of her own sexuality. (The book is acknowledged in the credits.) See more »
When Doctor Robert Ledgard is preparing the artificial skin for the surgery he grabs the scissors with his thumb and index fingers, every experienced surgeon uses thumb and ring finger for using that tool. See more »
Help me with the dumbwaiter.
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The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito, 2:00, R) other: drama, 3rd string, original
Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar has a just reputation for taking women seriously in his films. His latest effort (as usual in Spanish with English subtitles) is no exception, even tho he gives most of the screen time to his most accomplished discovery and frequent star, Antonio Banderas (seemingly one of the few Hispanic actors whom Americans will tolerate in a lead role), playing the brilliant and innovative plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard. This is a deadly serious role, in marked contrast to Banderas's other current star turn as the voice of Puss in Boots.
The female lead, Elena Anaya, plays Vera Cruz (yes), Ledgard's stunningly gorgeous patient, experimental subject, apparent captive, and well, here Almodóvar (who co-wrote the screenplay with brother Agustín) gets a bit coy. Is she a manikin, an Eliza Doolittle to Ledgard's Henry Higgins, a Sabina Spielrein to his Carl Jung, possibly a creature to his Frankenstein? Or maybe none of the above? We know only that she seems devoted to him, tho he is unresponsive to her charms.
Vera is confined to the big bedroom, elegantly furnished, where she does her yoga exercises dressed in a flesh-colored body stocking. Ledgard has the only key to the room, and he always keeps her locked in. He himself stays in the smaller bedroom next door, where he watches her intently on a wall-sized video screen. All her food and other needs are delivered from the kitchen via a dumbwaiter, and she communicates with only 2 people: Robert in person, and the housekeeper via intercom.
Ledgard is a widower, and we see in flashback that his wife Gal suffered a terrible car accident and fire, leaving her horribly disfigured even after Robert's virtuoso surgical work and devoted care. But even after all his efforts, Gal is unable to stand her pain, weakness, and ugliness, and she commits suicide. Unfortunately, it's right in front of their tweenage dotter Norma (Blanca Suárez), who is driven into hysterics and a nervous breakdown by the sight.
Ledgard, as one of the world's leading reconstructive surgeons, does not lack for cash, so he devotes the next several years to his twin obsessions, coaxing his dotter back from the precipice of madness and developing a graftable artificial skin, which he somewhat ghoulishly dubs Gal, a combination of human and pig genes that's highly resistant to burns, cuts, and punctures. Such an epidermis would have saved his beloved wife, he reasons, and this alone justifies his transgressing the ethical boundaries against transgenics. (This is the only science-fictional element in the film, and it's not much of a stretch from what modern medicine is actually capable of doing, which is why I categorize it as essentially a psychodrama.)
There are 3 other characters of note: Ledgard's housekeeper Marilia (Marisa Paredes), an older woman with secrets of her own; her wastrel son Zeca (Roberto Álamo), who pays an unwelcome visit; and studly young Vicente (Jan Cornet), son of and apprentice to the local dressmaker, who takes a shine to now-teenage Norma as she shyly tries to work her way back into normal society.
We learn most of the above during the first half hour, which leaves us wondering just what on Earth is going on here. The remainder of the film slowly pulls aside one curtain after another to fill us in. And that is all I will say on the subject. You'll have to see the rest for yourself.
And you should.
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