Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is a renowned plastic surgeon who is currently working on only one patient, Vera (Elena Anaya), who he keeps locked up in his private hospital where Robert illegally experiments on Vera with an especially fortified skin transplant. The only other person in the house is the housekeeper Marilia (Marisa Paredes) who has been with Robert since he was a child. Marilia is convinced that Vera has the face of Robert’s dead wife. And there is something else in Vera’s and Robert’s past that connects them.
Almodóvar has made quite a few changes from the book and most of them don’t really work for me. Generally the plotting is quite weak here. But apart from that, it’s a beautifully crafted film.
The two major things Almodóvar changed from the book was a) the whole thing with the skin – which, honestly, didn’t make much sense. Neither did the references to “no more burnings” [though he probably just meant his dead wife and said it to Vera] or Vera having Robert’s dead’s wife face. They do mention face transplants, but in this case, Robert would have had to surgically alter Vera to look like that since he definitely couldn’t transplant his dead wife’s face.
And b) he changed the ending to not be as depresing and sucky in the book. It’s a sentiment I appreciate, but it feels more realistic in the sucky way, so I’m not really a huge fan of that change either.
Apart from the comparison to the book though, I quite liked the film. Even though Almodóvar is not great at tying the scenes together into one giant whole, the scenes by themselves are beautiful. I especially loved the ones where he shows Vera getting accustomed to being locked up in the hospital. They were really very touching.
The score was fantastic, as was the cast. [Who knew that Antonio Banderas just has to turn 50 and play a psychopath so that I finally see the sexy in him? O_o]
I probably would have thought the film was great, if I hadn’t read the book which just handles the plot so much better.
Summarising: It’s fine. I just expect more from Almodóvar.