The Skin I Live In ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

hoooooooooooooooo fuckin boy

◻️ there's no fucking way i'm going to be able to write about this in a very coherent or structured way right now so it's gonna be another one of carmilla's bullet-point reviews!

◻️ antonio banderas would have absolutely killed it as james bond if he was ever given the opportunity.

◻️ i love the hot, tropical color palette of this film and its contrast with the sterility of Dr. Ledgard's laboratory/mansion, which is adorned with so much art and sculpture and framing that it becomes an extension of his vision of perfect and careful and deliberate design; architecture as anatomy.

◻️ where the fuck can i buy a body stocking like that.

◻️ hell give me one of those face-cast masks, too. that look is so immediately iconic, so Eyes Without a Face-esque, that i'm utterly stricken by it. it'd also make an amazing halloween costume.

◻️ to compare this to Victim, which i previously watched, it's refreshing that the kidnapping doesn't occur until halfway through the movie and that the surgeries are largely skipped over in a time lapse. Victim definitely proved more than anything else how tedious it can be to make that the focus of your film.

◻️ i can't even fucking begin to say whether this is "problematic" or not. i don't care for the idea that all art must be morally instructive or Good Representation on the best of days, but this film especially feels outside of such zero-sum readings on whether it "does harm." the fundamental and visceral feelings of vulnerability, loss, helplessness, power, violation, cruelty, vengeance, and tragedy that it conveys overpowered any ability of mine to ask whether Vincente "deserved it" or Dr. Ledgard "was in the right" or if it's a "suitable punishment" and even as i write this i still feel like these are stupid and unproductive questions to ask, like asking whether the Count of Monte Cristo "went a bit too far."

◻️ that being said the rape scenes felt, above all else, weirdly milquetoast and non-committal for something so horrific and integral to the plot, with the only real reaction elicited from me being a necessity to turn down the volume of my TV so that my roommates wouldn't be alarmed. if there's a lot of things that a rape scene shouldn't do, underhand tossing it is one of them.

◻️ any feelings of gender euphoria that Vera could have given me (prior to the final-act reveal that Vincente has just been playing nice to bide time) are complicated, and to be honest, somewhat nullified by Elena Anaya being a cisgender woman. but on a related note oh my god i don't think a trans actress would have necessarily been the right call for a film like this. on a meta-level you could argue that it signifies the perfection and totality of Dr. Ledgard's surgical skills.

◻️ why didn't the resilience of Dr. Ledgard's artificial skin come into play, like, at all. maybe it's a bit too much for me to have expected the house to go on fire or something and for Vera to be walking through it completely impervious, but it's like the film itself totally forgets this cool plot detail and nothing happens.

◻️ have i mentioned that i really fucking want one of those body stockings.

◻️ to repeat from my aforementioned Victim review, this film is equally as invested in presenting forced feminization as the ultimate possible degradation, mutilation, humiliation, and disempowerment for a man, which is inherently (trans)misogynistic to the extent that it is inextricable from a necessary belief in becoming a woman being the worst thing that could happen to you. yet there's also an allure, since the premise operates on reassignment being almost magically effective and complete, for free, with all of the logistics and circumstances and hard decisions and need to "come out" or go through an awkward early transition phase with people in public either taken care of for you already or removed entirely. just as the idea of having an incorrect gender assigned at birth can be uncomfortable, the idea of a correct (to you) gender being foisted upon you externally can be a liberating fantasy, in the abstract. so to say the least i have a lot of very complex feelings and attractions to stories like this and in a way, i kind of really value those feelings of discomfort, that taboo, that negotiation, and The Skin I Live In delivered on those feelings.

◻️ there's a lot more that i could say, probably, but i don't know of i can articulate it in words. i could do it in sensations or some kind of interpretative dance, maybe. fuck.

◻️ one of the most complete and horrifying Frankenstein films of the modern era.