Pedro Almodóvar is a twisted genius. I was fortunate enough to catch the tail-end of the Irish Film Institute’s ‘Focus on Pedro Almodóvar’ last night with a showing of ‘The Skin I Live In’. The term ‘vaginoplasty’ is now etched in my mind thanks to the horror of Almodóvar’s presentation of the haphazard ‘Vicente’, who is sadistically transformed into ‘Vera’ against his will.
Like a modern day Frankenstein – sexually charged, filled with Gothic ambition and gripping revenge – ‘The Skin I Live In’ ironically realises the potential ugliness that hangs in the balance of scientific progression. It leads us to question society’s obsession with aesthetic perfection: Gal could not live with her scarred body, Norma was a beautiful girl and yet fragile and fragmented on the inside, and Vera was in fact Vincente. Alas, the age old cliché is revisited: ‘looks can be deceiving’ because reality is rarely as it appears.
In spite of this thrillingly complex story, it was Vera’s insanely perfect vagina that stuck most with me. “I’ll bet that was a stunt vagina”, flashed through my mind as I stared at her pert, symmetrical labia – what an awful word. There aren’t many words that we can use to comfortably describe our genitalia, because lets face it, they’re generally not pretty. But ultimately, this mystifying vag – that so enamoured its creator Dr Legard and his brute of a brother – was not natural or real. Indeed, ‘Vera’ had gone to great lengths to maintain it’s girth following the vaginoplasty
This brings us to the modern phenomenons of ‘Tittooing’ – which involves enhancing the areola – and ‘Designer Vaginas’. ‘The Skin I Live In’ leaves us pondering whether having a wonderfully neat vagina like Vera makes her a better woman than any other? Are the Liverpudlian gals in the UK, who supposedly triggered the latest ‘Tittooing’ fad, better women than those who prefer the natural blush of their little raspberries?
While Dr Legard’s ‘creation’ resulted in his demise, his daughter’s beauty led to her seduction and attempted rape, which pushed her over the edge and ultimately out of the widow. Meanwhile, her funeral was full of scary looking plastics. On the up-side, Vera becomes one thick-skinned gal thanks to Dr. Legard’s advances in the use of synthetic skin. However, Almodóvar’s dark take on this french novel, originally called ‘Mygale’, leaves us with one undeniable message: beauty is a burden in its natural form and ruins those who seek it. It seems like an apt lesson for those tight-lipped, dark-nippled fashionistas of today. There’s just one issue that still puzzles me. How did Vera come to strut like a vixen, despite the fact that she was originally a macho male forced into a sex-change and locked away for years?