The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The Skin I Live In – not the centipede movie I had feared

with 24 comments

No movie has made me feel as nauseous as The Human Centipede. Yet I haven’t watched it, and I don’t think I ever will.

I had more than enough of it as I listened to my daughter describing the centipede construction to me in detail while drawing an illustration to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The image was burnt into my mind and I couldn’t stop thinking of it, so I ended up sharing it with some colleagues at work, who became equally troubled and couldn’t get it out of their heads either. That centipede was as infectious as it was haunting and I suppose that was exactly the intention.

With that film in mind I wasn’t sure on how I would react to Pedro Almodóvar’s latest movie The Skin I Live In. It sounded disturbingly much like a body part horror movie. All I knew about the plot was that it involved a plastic surgeon who has created a new type of resilient synthetic skin, which he tries out on a woman he keeps in custody in his own house. For all I could tell it could very well be another centipede.

As it turned out I needn’t have worried. While a little bit creepy and disturbing, The Skin I Live In is no more horrific than a Hitchcock classic.  It’s fairly safe to watch for an average movie goer like me, though I’d advice against showing it for kids.

Spoiler sensitive
I must confess that I feel a bit at loss as what to write now. The less I say and the less I’ll spoil, the better it is. I don’t want to be THAT guy who happily takes out the fun of The Sixth Sense to everyone else without even realizing it. I need to be careful where I step.

For my own part I had stayed away from spoilers, so I had absolutely no idea about where the story was going for a big part of the movie. In fact I was pretty much at loss at what it all was about for the first 30 minutes. The scenes were loosely put together and I didn’t see the pattern. How were those people interconnected? Why did the woman in the body suit behave so weirdly?  I started to become a bit frustrated. Would this become yet another coconut movie where I was supposed to read up afterwards to understand anything of what I just had watched? I wasn’t up for coconut cracking! I wanted some proper storytelling and a plot I could grasp on a Friday night. Was that too much to ask for? Really?

But just as I was about to start cursing and grinding my teeth, the movie took a step back in time to show the events that had led up to the current situation. And from that point and onwards I was absolutely hooked.

As we got to the end, I didn’t just “get” it, I was in awe, and if I hadn’t been an inhibited Swede, I would have stood up in my seat, giving a standing ovation to celebrate the beautiful piece of art I just had enjoyed.

A content smile
The last few days I’ve been walking around with an inward, content smile, the kind of smile you will see from someone who just has finished a gourmet dinner or had an amazing sexual experience. It’s not that the film is uplifting, because frankly, it isn’t. But it has everything I possible could want. It’s pretty, elegant, intriguing, gripping, challenging and entertaining at the same time.

At this point I know all the twists and turns, but if someone in my family will go and see it, I will most likely tag along to watch it a second time. I’d especially love to see the first 30 minutes in the light of what I know now; I imagine there were a lot of details I missed since I was too busy trying to figure out the big picture of things.

To wrap it up: The Skin I Live In is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a theatre in 2011 and I can’t recommend it enough.

The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito, Pedro Almodóvar, ES 2011)  My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

December 8, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in The Skin I Live In

24 Responses

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  1. I’m a fan of Almodovar and I knew he would knock this film out of the park but the third act was like WTF?!!!

    Man, he can still pull a surprise. Almodovar rules.

    Steven Flores

    December 8, 2011 at 2:18 am

  2. I agree, definitely one of the best of the year. Spain made a mistake not selecting this to represent them at the Oscars.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    December 8, 2011 at 2:37 am

    • They didn’t? What a weird decision. Definitely a mistake. Or the movie they chose must have been quite something…


      December 8, 2011 at 10:16 am

  3. Can’t wait to see this one. Definitely one of my most anticipated of 2011. I’m a huge Almodovar fan. Have you seen some of his other films, such as TALK TO HER or ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER? I recommend them.


    December 8, 2011 at 3:01 am

    • I’ve seen a couple of Almodovar movies before, but it’s been quite a few years ago, so to be honest I don’t remember them – at all. I was so stunned by this one that I’d definitely consider plowing down in his previous productions.


      December 8, 2011 at 10:23 am

  4. I am oddly not interested in this one, it just seems too “weird” for me. But, I suppose since so many people love it I must check it out.

    Nice review!

    Matt Stewart

    December 8, 2011 at 4:32 am

    • Well, I don’t know where the line goes for “too weird”. But I really liked it.


      December 8, 2011 at 10:18 am

  5. Sorry to say Jessica, I didn’t read this. I haven’t seen it yet and am waiting for thr blu-ray to surface before I do. But I want to go in pretty cold. Nice to see a 5/5 score though

    Scott Lawlor

    December 8, 2011 at 7:48 am

    • I tried to keep my take on this as spoiler free as I could, not saying very much about the plot. But better safe than sorry.


      December 8, 2011 at 10:17 am

  6. It definitely is an amazing movie and one I am slowly considering to add to my top 10 list of favorite movies I saw this year. It’s shocking, but at the same time you understand why all this is happening. I reviewed it a while ago (you can read it here:


    December 8, 2011 at 9:56 am

    • It will definitely end up in my top 10. Possibly my top 3. The year isn’t finished yet though.


      December 8, 2011 at 10:20 am

  7. Very nice to see a 5/5 score. This is my most anticipated release this month (hitting cinemas December 26th). A lot of Sydney bloggers have seen the film and they are refusing to talk about it too (which is good) so the twist must be a killer!

    Andrew Buckle

    December 8, 2011 at 9:56 am

    • I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It’s a nice little belated Christmas gift for a film lover to enjoy. I think there isn’t only one twist but several. It’s like a puzzle where finally all the pieces fall in place.


      December 8, 2011 at 10:22 am

  8. Jessica
    You should probably go see the human centipede, nothing movie directors make, will ever out-creep your own imagination.

    Same reason why sequels to horror-movies are never as frightening; You know what the monster can do, what it looks like and how it can die. So your own imagination has nowhere to add on layers to scare you.
    Go see it, get creeped out. But not as much as you thought you would be 🙂

    (after that, Google 2 girls one cup… maybe not, but tell your daughter you did, that would scare *her*)


    December 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    • NO. I refuse. I’ve heard about that girls-and-cup-clip recently, might have been at a podcast. Yeah, I think it was. Apparently you can’t see the clip on youtube but it’s become popular to make videos that show people’s reactions as they watch it. But I really don’t feel any need to find out. And I think I can manage to annoy and embarrass my daughters by other means anyway… It’s easier than you may think. Just wait and see!


      December 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm

  9. Nice to read your review and I´m extra happy to see the score. 5/5 from both you and me, that´s really fantasti! I hope Almodovar himself feels the same, both regarding the film and our extraooooordinary good taste 😉


    December 8, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    • Yep! We don’t always agree but about this one we’re like twins It bugged me a bit to learn from a comment though that he wasn’t nominated for the Oscar. Craziness, I say. It’s one of the best movies of the year.


      December 8, 2011 at 11:06 pm

  10. Haven’t seen the movie yet but I like the Almodovar’s work that I’ve seen, especially Talk to Her. I’ll see the movie once it’s on DVD.

    The idea of the movie kind of reminds me of Kim Ki-Duks time which was all about an addiction to plastic surgery. And as most of his movies, it’s good.


    December 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    • I’m pretty sure you’re going to love it. YTou and I tend to fall on the same line a lot.


      December 12, 2011 at 12:27 am

  11. […] 2. The Skin I Live In A quote from my review: […]

  12. I concur absolutely Jessica. Its simply a work of art and Almodovar deserves the utmost praise for this. This is the type of filmmaking we see very rarely these days and like yourself it’s hard to write about without spoiling it for others. It would be unforgivable to reveal too much to anyone. I certainly wouldn’t have been happy had anyone disclosed important info to me about it. It’s secrecy and layers are what make it the masterpiece that it is. Great write-up Jessica and another film that we can sit on the same side of the fence again. 🙂

    Mark Walker

    August 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    • Thanks Mark! As I wrote I think this movie has the quality that will make it a classic. I hope to see it appearing in various top lists in the years to come. And I know for sure I’ll return to it, enjoying all the layers again and with a new level of attention and observation now that I know the outcome and can focus on the road that leads to it.


      August 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm

      • I’ll also revisit this one Jessica. It’s a testament to Almodovar that he can tease and surprise the way he does. It certainly makes my list of favourites from last year, there’s no doubt about that. A masterclass of cinema thats made me want to revisit his older stuff as well.

        Mark Walker

        August 16, 2012 at 10:28 pm

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