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Film: La Piel Que Habito
aka: The Skin I Live In
La Piel Que Habito
(known in the US as The Skin I Live In
) is a Pedro Almodovar
film about a mysterious woman undergoing equally mysterious skin transplant procedures by a secretive plastic surgeon as part of his research into "a skin that accepts a caring touch, yet resists all harmful attacks." But why is she held in a locked room, almost prison-like, without any contact from the outside world? Why is the doctor so adamant about keeping her hidden away? How did the two ever meet, and why is she being subjected to such procedures, which seem to be against her will?
This movie contains examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: The character of Alex, instrumental in the book, has apparently been reworked into Zeca.
- All Men Are Perverts: Zeca and Vicente. Norma and Vera have to learn it the hard way.
- Alone with the Psycho: Vera with Zeca.
- Arc Words: Am I complete?
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Vera is a man.
- Beauty to Beast: Robert's wife was burned to within an inch to her life in a car crash. She was disfigured horribly, and Robert and the mansion's staff removed all mirrors when she regained consciousness for fear of her reaction. It worked, for a while... until she caught her reflection on a window pane.
- Becoming the Mask: Played with and ulitmatly subverted with Vicente/Vera.
- Bittersweet Ending: Vicente has had his revenge against Robert and managed to escape the mansion he was confined into, but he now female-assigned primary and secondary sex characteristics.
- Black and Gray Morality: There is not one innocent party in the plot, except Vicente's mom.
- Bloodless Carnage: The vaginoplasty etc.. Slightly subverted when Robert shoots and kills Zeca and when Vicente-almost-Vera slits his own throat.
- Broken Bird: Vera. Finding out why and how is the crux of the plot.
- Chekhov's Gun: Yoga, it helps Vicente with keeping his self despite the radical changes his body has suffered, the head sculptures Vera makes which are identical to the one Vicente left unfinished before getting kidnapped and a woman's dress which helps him with convincing his friend who he actually is.
- Creepy Housekeeper: Marilia.
- Death by Adaptation: Robert.
- Despair Event Horizon: Norma, when Vicente rapes her (even if there was no penetration, it had the same effect). Robert, when Norma kills herself. Finally, Vicente, after seeing the results of the vaginoplasty.
- Determinator: Vicente's mother, and Vicente himself, who hung on to his personality and the hope of release for over six years of forced gender-affirmative treatments.
- Disproportionate Retribution: This movie might as well be called Disproportionate Retribution: The Movie.
- Driven to Madness: Norma. Twice.
- Driven to Suicide: Robert's first wife, upon seeing her disfigured face for the first time, takes a flying leap off her balcony... right before their daughter's eyes. The incident traumatized the latter severely, and just when she seems to get well enough to socialize in public again, Vicente's attempted date rape completely broke her and she soon follows in her mother's footsteps. Later on, Vera tries to kill himself by slicing his throat open with a knife, which is why the mansion's staff is forbidden from handing her any edged or bladed items. In present time, Vera half-heartedly attempts it again by using the paper from her books to cut herself, but as Robert states, if she had really meant it, she would have cut her throat instead of her chest.
- Easy Sex Change: Vera is actually Vicente after Robert's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Falling into His Arms: Norma into Vicente's, at the party. And so the tragedy unfolds.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Not only was Vicente operated on repeatedly but [[spoiler: he was also used as a Guinea Pig for experiments with transgenic skin.
- Faux Affably Evil: Robert
- False Rape Accusation: Subverted: the fact that there was no actual penetration doesn't make it any better, at least not in view of the consequences.
- Flashback: They reveal who Vera actually is.
- Film of the Book: The movie is based upon the Thierry Jonquet novel Mygale.
- Foreshadowing: Marilia chides Robert for giving Vera his wife's face, saying that it would be his downfall.
- The Dog Bites Back: Vera /Vicente killing Robert at the end of the movie.
- Handsome Lech: Vicente makes (harmless and pointless) passes at Cristina, his lesbian coworker, and he's quite attractive to Norma and her teenage friends.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Robert gives Vera the face of his own, late wife. Ultimately, he gives in to his lust for him and allows him to stay outside of confinement, and even sleeps with him, giving him the perfect opportunity to take revenge. To add insult to injury, Vera shoots him with his own gun from his desk.
- Idiot Ball: Marilia knew full well what kind of man Zeca was, and she knew that Robert didn't want anyone coming anywhere near Vera, yet she allowed him into the mansion with hardly a complaint. Robert giving Vera his wife's face when he had absolutely no reason to was even worse.
- I Lied: Vera says this to Robert as he is about to shoot him.
- Innocent Fanservice Girl: After a fashion, Vera. The skin-colored, skintight full-body suit she wears 24/7 gives the appearance that she's naked all the time, and she has no qualms with being fully naked before other people. At first it seems to be a side-effect of the constant skin procedures (which require constant visual examination and treatment,) but it gives a hint that Vicente doesn't really see that skin as his own, so people seeing Vera naked doesn't mean anything to him.
- Ironic Echo: "If you like the dress so much why not wear it yourself?"
- Lie Back and Think of England: Vera when raped by Zeca, and again when lying with Robert, in order to earn both men's trust so she could escape.
- Love Makes You Crazy/Evil: The extent of Robert's revenge, up to and including making Vera look just like his own wife, which ended up as...
- Love Makes You Dumb: If he hadn't used that face, Zeca wouldn't have been so hasty to go and rape the "female guest," and Robert himself wouldn't have fallen for him.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Marilia is Robert's biological mother, gave him up to the Ledgard family (his father's) when the lady of the house was unable to bear child.
- Karmic Transformation: At least according to Robert.
- Knight Templar Parent: And how.
- Mad Scientist: Robert.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Subverted:Vera adopted a feminine persona in order to cling to the core of Vicente's true personality.
- Near-Rape Experience/Date Rape Averted: Vicente to Norma. It's only after he slaps her unconscious (she kept crying and screaming "No!") that he realizes what he's doing and redresses her as best as he can, but he still leaves her lying there in the garden for Robert to find.
- Never Found the Body: Vicente's mother invokes this when his motorcycle is found (planted by Robert) crashed at the bottom of a cliff. Possibly, it happens literally with Zeca, since the only people who know where he was buried are killed.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Zeca's assault, horrible as it was, was directly responsible for Vera's freedom.
- Punny Name: Unintentional. See Narm for details.
- Rape and Revenge
- Rape Leads To Insanity: Norma's (near) rape left her in a traumatic state where she wouldn't even recognize her father anymore and which ultimately leads to her suicide.
- "Rashomon"-Style: At a friend's wedding, Robert finds evidence that his daughter was dragged into the dark and raped. Much later on, Vicente's flashback shows that (although his actions were heinous enough) he didn't go all the way. Too bad for him that he was too high to remember what actually happened that night when his life depended on it.
- The Reveal: Vera is actually Vicente, the man who ended up being unfortunate enough to mistake Robert's daughter's insanity for weed buzz and stupid enough to try and have sex with her. As a part of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge he has been operated on to appear assigned female at birth.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: What Richard does to his daughter rapist. And what Vera does when she's freed from captivity.
- Room Full of Crazy: The endless scribbles and artsy sketches that Vera's room is covered in? They didn't come with the room. Vicente/Vera made them himself to hold on to sanity.
- Rule of Symbolism
- Vera's bodysuit, a "second skin" that becomes his identity as much as the one Robert grafts on him.
- Zeca's tiger outfit, representing the tiger that ceaselessly stalks its pen in order to pounce upon any brief chance at freedom... much like Vera himself.
- The present-day plot kicks off during Carnival season, when people go around in masks —temporary identities that they assume (or are forced to assume, if they want to participate in the event,) use to indulge in for a while, and then discard when they return to the real world. Even Zeca states that he wouldn't get to walk around free without his, since there's a warrant for his arrest.
- "Vera" is a short form of both the name "Verónica" (name derived from the Latin vera icon for "true image") as well as the Spanish word "verdadera," ("[the] true [one]," in the feminine.) "Vera" is Vicente's ''false'' persona, and of course he doesn't consider himself a woman.
- Scale of Scientific Sins: Robert's breakthroughs in artificial skin are hailed as nigh-miraculous, until he confides with his superiors that he's using transgenic material from pigs (the animal with tissues closest to humans') to manufacture it. He's immediately chastised for it, since not only is it illegal and banned by the European scientific community, but because it's "unethical."
- Compounded further when a trusted colleague and friend discovers that Robert is using a human guinea pig (Vera) for his research, and not mice as he claimed to the medical board. But since said guinea pig is a kidnapped Vicente, the "transgenic research is banned" part is just a tiny cherry on top of a bigger scientific blasphemy sundae.
- Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: Robert's mansion, and Vera's room in it (and Vicente's dungeon beneath it).
- Shout-Out: Many shots, the setting and part of the plot reference heavily Eyes Without a Face. Another part references Frankenstein and the last par remembers The Last House on the Left.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: What Marilia initially says Robert and Zeca have, with one child being bright and obedient and growing up to be a famous doctor, and the other going off to deal drugs at age seven and turning out as a killer and robber. However, by her own admission, they are both monsters, they just expressed it in different ways.
- Something Only They Would Say: Vera invokes this to be recognized as "Vicente" by Cristina, his mother's assistant.
- Tailor-Made Prison: Vera's room in the mansion. A Gilded Cage it may be, catering to her needs and requests, but it's still custom-made to prevent her escape or suicide.
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: After Norma's Near-Rape Experience, she forgets her father, because she now sees all men as embodiments of her rapist.
- Too Dumb to Live: Vicente trying to have sex with an obviously deranged woman.
- He was himself very high, and might not have understood she was deranged
- Zeca's robbery partner, who didn't just fail to kill the security cams but allowed them to capture his face when everyone else was wearing ski masks, leading the police to the rest of the gang.
- White Mask of Doom: Vera is having one of her own.
- You Wouldn't Shoot Me: More like "You wouldn't kill yourself" in the scene where Vera threatens to slice her own throat. Subverted, when he actually does.