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.
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