Dr. Victor Frankenstein wanted to create life, but he botched the job. Dr. Robert Ledgard, a surgeon, wants to rearrange life, and while his creation looks pretty good, "The Skin I Live In" is more horror story than medical text. The new film from Spanish director Pedro Almodovar opens here today. It's convoluted and sometimes confusing, but it's tightly wound around a core of ego.
The movie reunites Almodovar and Antonio Banderas, who used to be a team, but have not worked together in some 20 years. Banderas is the doctor, handsome, successful and wealthy, who lives in a luxurious home that doubles as an operating room and a small hospital for convalescence. His personal life is a mess. His wife, badly burned in an auto accident, committed suicide because of the way she looks, and their daughter, the lovely Norma (Blanca Suarez) has been in and out of mental hospitals ever since. The house is run by the super-competent servant, Marilia (Marisa Paredes), mother of a ne'er-do-well son, Zeca (Roberto Alamo), and there's Vera (Elena Anaya), a prisoner in the house.
Marilia reveals to Vera that she's the mother of both the doctor and the ne'er-do-well, but with different fathers. Zeca, on the run from some robberies, shows up at the doctor's house seeking a hideout, then attempts to rape Vera, at which point Ledgard shows up and shoots him.
Somewhere around here, we flash back six years and meet Vicente (Jan Cornet), working in his family's dressmaking business. We start digging into other facets of the doctor's life and work, and the plot details revealed above are merely an introduction. Almodovar does not back away from anything, overturning rocks and shining bright lights on what's beneath them. Banderas, cool and cruel, is his usual excellent self, and the others in the cast work extremely well together.
The film's story is based on a novel, "Mygale," or "Tarantula," by Thierry Jonquet, adapted by Almodovar for the screen. The result is a fascinating movie, though certainly not for everyone.
The Skin I Live In opens today at the Plaza Frontenac