The Skin I Live In  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito) is a 2011 Spanish drama thriller film directed by Pedro Almodóvar, starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, Roberto Álamo and Blanca Suárez, and is loosely based on Thierry Jonquet's novel Mygale. The film was the first collaboration in 21 years between Almodóvar and his former regular cast member Banderas. The film premiered in May 2011 in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival. The plot is a take on the the mad doctor and new flesh plot.


Based on Thierry Jonquet's novel "Mygale", this revenge tale tells the story of a plastic surgeon on the hunt for the men who raped his daughter.

The film is set in Toledo. In 2012, surgeon Robert Ledgard (Banderas) has succeeded in cultivating a new skin that cannot burn, claiming he has only tested the process on mice. At his estate, which also serves as a facility for medical research and operations, he is holding a young woman (Anaya) captive with the help of his servant Marilia (Paredes). It is carnival season. While Robert is away, Zeca (Álamo), having committed a robbery, arrives in carnival costume as a tiger to ask Marilia, his mother, to hide him for a few days. He learns of the female captive. When Marilia refuses to hide him or grant him access the captive, he binds and gags her, gets to the captive, and rapes her. Robert arrives, interrupts the rape, and kills Zeca.

Marilia tells the captive that she is mother to both Zeca and Robert by different men, a fact she has not shared with them. To explain what motivates Robert's experiments on the captive, she explains that Robert's wife was burned in a car crash twelve years earlier. When she saw what she looked like after the accident, "a cinder," she jumped from a window to her death. Their daughter Norma (Suárez) witnessed the suicide and required psychiatric treatment thereafter. Marilia's story segues into a flashback.

It is six years earlier. Vicente (Cornet), a young man who works in his mother's dress shop, makes unsuccessful advances toward his lesbian co-worker. Norma is temporarily released from psychiatric care to attend a wedding with her father. At the reception dance, Vicente leads her into the garden and attempts to have sex with her. She screams. He hits her and flees. Robert finds his daughter and as she awakens she imagines he is her rapist. She is incarcerated for more psychiatric treatment and soon commits suicide. As revenge for the rape, Robert has Vicente kidnapped and performs sex reassignment surgery on him. He turns Vicente into a physical replication of his deceased wife.

It is 2012 again. Following Zeca's attack and Marilia's explanation, Vicente, now a woman, has taken the name Vera and feigns cooperation with Robert. Fulgencio (Fernández), one of Robert's colleagues, reads a news story about a missing youth named Vicente and recognizes him as the subject of sex reassignment surgery. He accuses Robert of falsifying documents to conduct that surgery and of experimenting on Vicente. Vera arrives to support Robert by asserting her willing participation. Having gained Robert's trust, Vera kills him and then Marilia. Vera returns to the dress shop and tells her mother and co-worker that she is Vicente, now a woman.


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