Warning: Contains Major Spoilers and May Disturb. 15+.
There is a doctor ... a bit crazy in the eyes but we can forgive him that. After all, he is a debonair Antonio Banderas huskily speaking Spanish. We immediately meet his his young captive, Vera (Elena Anaya), a haunting young woman with a gorgeous face wearing a dreadful nude colored body sock. It becomes apparent she is a lonely prisoner in The Doctor's (Banderas) home and seems to be experiencing Stockholm syndrome.
We get some backstory nicely presented to us in a well ordered flashback and meet The Doctors daughter (who in the present of this film is dead). This disturbed young girl is medicated to the eyeballs, and bat shit crazy (everybody in this film has mental problems). Her mother (The Doctors wife) committed suicide in front of her as a child, as she was horribly burned and disfigured from a car accident and left a crispy husk of the beautiful woman she once was. This is why The Doctor develops an obsession with skin.
During this flashback we meet a young man called Vincente. High on pills he meets The Doctor's daughter during one of her lucid periods and finds he likes her and she him. The daughter decides halfway through sex with Vince she isn't into it, and starts to scream. Panicked, he slaps her, she passes out, and he runs away looking unsure as to how a good night turned so bad. The Doctor stumbles upon his unconscious daughter and from her reaction and condition he comes to the conclusion she has been raped. Being crazy and all she does not contradict him but takes to hiding in closets.
Still paying attention? From this point on things get interesting.
The Doctor finds Vincente and kidnaps him. As you do. Then the film got weird. Weirder than a perfect women held captive and forced to wear ugly nude body stocking? Yeah. Much weirder.
The Doctor gives an imprisoned Vincente a vagina. No word of a lie. He chops his penis off and makes him into a woman. Yes. He then precedes to tell this traumatized young man that he will have to insert dildos (small, medium, and large I'll have you know, and apologies not dildo's, "dilators") up this newly carved orifice to ensure it heals properly. At this point the penny drops and you could almost feel the confusion and fear coming off the men in the theatre in waves. The guy next to me kept making a sound between a chuckle and a whimper.
Um ... I totally saw that coming?! *baffled look*
Years pass and our boy is turned step by step into a stunning, anatomically perfect woman. Not only is he given breasts, his voice becomes higher, and The Doctor changes the structure of his face (to look like his dead wife, of course), his hands, feet, and gives Vincente an entirely new skin by surgically grafting skin he grows in test tubes onto Vincente's body. It is creepy as hell. *shudder* Vincent is then crowned Vera, and is left a woman with flame retardant skin.
As I watched this I tried to wrap my head around what was happening to this innocent man and found my imagination lacking. I even had a nosebleed when I got home and I'm convinced it was because I was thinking about it so hard I burst a blood vessel, lol.
If all of this wasn't strange and crazy enough The Doctor manages to fall in love with Vera/Vincente (ah, so sorry Doctor, at what point did Vincente become gay?) He then precedes to try and copulate with her/him on several occasions and oh.... I can't go on, things get odder and odder until the film ends.
I've read a few reviews of this film and all focus on the flame resistant skin The Doctor creates by messing around with human genetics (a big no no in the scientific community), and how it was all a demented ode to his dead wife. Uh huh. So ... that fact he kidnaps a young man conducts gruesome experiments on him, changes his gender without his permission, and then tries to have sex with him/her is conveniently left out? Riiiiight.
This film is good. Brilliant even if you can get past all the crazy. There are deeper currents to the film, but honestly, I struggled to appreciate them since the story line is so bizarre and distracting.
Go see this if you like the weird and wonderful and don't mind subtitles. There are some shots which are simply beautiful.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Running Time: 120 minutes