"I’m incapable of respecting genre rules"
by Gonzalo Suárez López
- Almodóvar blends thriller, sci-fi and melodrama in his highly anticipated adaptation of a novel by Thierry Jonquet.
Pedro Almodóvar spoke to journalists from the world over after the screening of The Skin I Live In [+see also:
interview: Pedro Almodóvar
film profile], presented in Competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival. The La Mancha-born director arrived at the press conference accompanied by, among others, his brother Agustín – the film’s co-screenwriter and producer – and actors Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes. What follows are excerpts from the press conference.
What attracted you to Thierry Jonquet’s novella Tarántula?
Pedro Almodóvar: I read the novella about 10 years ago. What attracted me and the only thing that remained in the film – over time I moved away a lot from the original – was the magnitude of Doctor Ledgard’s vendetta.
How would you describe the character Antonio Banderas plays?
Antonio’s character is a creator, someone who can create life, skin – the organ that identifies us and separates us from the rest. He comes from a violent family, he’s wild and morally independent, with an education unlike other Spaniards, and a culture not based on punishment and sin like mine. He’s an unscrupulous psychopath, without any empathy. An extreme person, which fits well with this film because it promises endless cruelty, which naturally must correspond with a character like Elena’s [Anaya], who is able to survive all this cruelty.
Does this foray into a thriller mark the beginning of a new tendency in your career?
Throughout my personal and professional arc, I have worked in different genres that were popular at the time. Right now the thriller is a genre that can blend with genres. I’m not capable of following genre rules. One can no longer make a genre film like the thriller, melodramas, musicals, etc. with the same innocence as in the 1940s and 50s. I don’t know what my next film will be – even though I’m writing it – but it’s very probable that it will end up being somewhat of a thriller.
What other influences are behind The Skin I Live In?
I was most interested in the thrillers of the 1940s of filmmakers like Fritz Lang. In fact – and this I didn’t tell anyone who’s here at this table with me – I spent various months thinking about making a silent, blank and white film, à la the films of Fritz Lang; but the screenplay did not fit this perfectly. Finally [and after various drafts], the only clear reference was George Franju’s Eyes Without a Face. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or better yet the myth of Prometheus on which it’s based, is a better reference that I noticed only afterwards.
Furthermore, I wanted to move away from gore, the brutal spectacle of the body, so that the spectator would focus on understanding the process of transgenesis that the protagonist performs. I don’t know to what extent The Skin I Live In is a science fiction film. In Granada there is a laboratory of artificial skin and transgenesis is something that bioethics naturally halts so as to not mix human beings with other species, but which is normal in other fields: food, textiles….
What is the relationship therefore between science and art?
Elena’s character finds enormous relief in [artist] Louise Bourgeois, whose work helps her stay alive. Art in this case means a help for survival. Science follows another path. I think that science will transform the idea of “humanity” into something else. We’ll gain a lot but we’ll also have an unknown factor when human beings will be able to determine, through genetic therapy, the details of the birth of a new self. Science will help us greatly but it will also place us before an abyss. Art will always be here to accompany us, to give us pleasure or even help us survive.