Much like the film’s mad plastic surgeon protagonist, its brilliancy is matched by its perversity. And there’s plenty of both.
Co-written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, “Skin” is a modern-day Frankenstein story about Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) and his beautiful “lab-rat” patient-prisoner, Vera (Elena Anaya). Driven by the car accident burn-mutilation and later suicide of his wife, Gal, Dr. Ledgard invents a revolutionary form of epidermis, called, “Gal,” resistant to fire as well as insect bites. Vera is covered in “Gal” from head to foot, but not by choice.
Vera and her doctor are full of many other surprises. Moving back and forth in time with snake-like smoothness, Almodóvar tells his fascinating tale through labyrinthine plot twists and turns, leading to multiple eye-opening revelations.
The story is mostly told in the doctor‘s spectacular high-tech Spanish mansion, adorned with monstrous nude paintings. At one point, Ledgard gazes upon a voluptuous reclining naked woman on his bedroom wall, before we realize it’s Vera sleeping on a surveillance screen.
Other strange characters inhabit the film: Marilia (Marisa Paredes); the mysterious housekeeper; her criminal son, Zeca (Roberto Alamo), arriving in a tiger costume); Ledgard’s young daughter Norma (Blanca Suarez), severely disturbed after witnessing her mother’s suicide; and Vicente (Jan Cornet), a motorbiking youth, who tries to get sexy with Norma.
All these characters connect in ways impossible to predict, becoming pawns in the mad doctor’s insane game. What’s enthralling is the way Almodóvar weaves the pieces of the perverse thriller. He’s a master. Demented, but a master.