Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Eduardo Casanova’s Pieles ponders the question: if she has no eyes, her skin is scaly and her toes are webbed, can she still be beautiful?
The movie is broken up into short episodic chapters and offers a window into the lives of people who suffer from facial or physical disfigurement. These outcasts live hermetic lives, they create their own world inside their immaculate, stylish interiors. Their contact with the outside world usually ends in disgust or fetishization; either way they can never forget their alternative appearance.
The young director from Madrid broke out early with a vivacious style in his short films and went on to work in music videos and commercial advertising. This commercial/pop art style is pervasive in Pieles as the director is obsessed with artificiality. The set design and cinematography are steadfastly honed in on, creating a pink and purple plastic cocoon for these hermits to spend their days in.
For each character, the body is a malleable, fluid expression of themselves, just like the flesh-coloured interiors. Whereas, Cronenberg was obsessed with disfiguring flesh to articulate how technology changes humanity, Casanova celebrates bodies that push the norm of pre-conceived notions of how we should look.
Unfortunately, sometimes the director loses sight of this intensity and favours style over substance, making some episodes stronger than others. For instance, Ana (Candela Peña), confronts her boyfriend Ernesto (Secun de la Rosa) to see if he loves her or the fact that her face is disfigured. This fetishization of the disfigured body exposes the superficial people who are attracted to the surface but not the person underneath.
Pieles stands out from the crowd thanks to its radical aesthetic and bold themes. The characters are lovable and the chapters range from the comically absurd to the morosely heart-wrenching.
Pieles (Skins) does not have a UK release date yet.
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