The Skin I Live In
La piel que habito
Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Cornerhouse, 28 August 2011
What Almodovar does, to answer the question posed at the end of my review of Jonquet’s novel, is to make the character of Vincente/Vera (Eve in the novel) central to his film.
Vincente has also become a more sympathetic character; he doesn’t rape Richard’s daughter, though Richard believes otherwise. His daughter’s distress arises because she witnesses her mother’s suicide. In short, Almodovar has made the novel’s material his own, circumvented it towards his own concerns.
However, it would be too simple to say that Vera, as a gender queer personage, discovers her own nature. Or has it forcibly thrust upon her. The final few scenes introduce a distinct note of ambivalence. Not to choose or edit out, to be both Vincente/Vera, seems to be where he/she is at.
This is a stylish thriller, visually striking as is only to be expected from Almodovar, and it holds one’s attention throughout. Sometimes his signature is a little too obvious (e.g. high heels as a marker of power: Norma’s shedding of them, Vera’s trying them on), but on the whole it’s wonderful to look at. There are many more colours and flavours than noir, but maybe para-noir might make for an apt formulation of the effect that he achieves. Anyway, Vera is a rare bloom and not at all your garden-variety femme fatale.