Pedro Almodóvar appears consistently fascinated by the human body. By dissecting one of his most intelligent films, All About My Mother, I discovered how much he uses human form to discuss, criticise and explore gender, nationality and identity. Becoming exposed to more and more of Almodóvar’s portfolio of work taught me about his thoughts on the transnational and his ways of representing this through transvestites, transsexuals and both straight and gay relationships. Almodóvar’s understanding of the female soul and mind-set has always impressed me. This is perhaps why Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and All About My Mother are his most respected pieces of work; films where women drive the narrative and control the worlds around them. Suffering the horror of the opposite sex, women in Almodóvar’s films are often victims who are held back by the men who damage them in a variety of ways. Volver is one of my personal favourites from the Spanish auteur. Volver demonstrates Almodóvar maintaining his high level of work, decades on from his earliest works of art. It was only last week that I watched one of his freshest pieces of work, The Skin I Live In, in which Almodóvar takes his manipulation of the human body to a more intense and physical level.
Man and monster combine in this unnerving drama that extracts elements from both the horror of Frankenstein and the medical science fiction of Minority Report. Defining one’s self is explored in depth in this contemporary horror story where Almodóvar addresses body transformation more directly than ever before. Antonio Banderas reunites with Almodóvar to play the role of the twisted plastic surgeon who is dealing with his own wounds whilst both consecutively healing and creating wounds upon his experiment and hostage, the beautiful Vera, played exquisitely by Elena Anaya. The performances are exceptional from the entire cast and once again Almodóvar succeeds in making his audience care about characters who are so unattractive in personality, intention and attitude. As the story unravels we become more and more enlightened about what makes these characters tick. The story takes many unexpected turns and the audience are left in disbelief at some of the over dramatic scenarios our characters end up in. Yet it is these situations, however unrealistic, that allow our characters to express their pain and anguish that has plagued them for so long. I rooted for nobody. Everyone is a sinner; responsible for the hurt and pain of another character. The plot becomes tangled up with the distorted characters and their twisted actions. The final moments of the film are emotional and surprisingly soothing in the same way as All About My Mother and Volver.
The Skin I Live In is a perfect example of what European cinema has to offer as an alternative to Hollywood. The story is strong and enchanting in a dark and uncomfortable way. The characters are exciting and interesting amidst all of their selfishness and their surreal outlooks on their surroundings. Almodóvar knows how to scare and unnerve his audience whilst always ensuring we are well looked after and satisfied.
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