Ana María Sánchez-Arce
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Visual seduction
La piel que habito
in The cinema of Pedro Almodóvar
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This chapter argues that postmodern recycling in La piel que habito is used within a metamodern structure of feeling, as seen in the discordance between the plot’s horrific events and its aesthetically pleasing form. The film’s use of characterisation, intertextuality, mise-en-scène, and narrative structure provides viewers with paths to uncover the characters’ traumatic history. Comparing the film to Thierry Jonquet’s novella Mygale, the chapter shows how entomological symbols are extended to include regeneration and rebirth, as well as being closely related to noir’s figure of the femme fatale. Intertextual links to Luis Buñuel’s Tristana, Michael Haneke’s Cache, horror such as Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage, body horror, and melodrama are coupled with a specific Spanish use of neo-noir that explores the country’s Francoist past. La piel’s gleaming surfaces are used to explore how the ideological, political, and economic structures built during the dictatorship have remained hidden under a veneer of democracy. Gender violence and sex reassignment are discussed both as bodily trauma relating allegorically to historical events and as a challenge to automatic ascription of gender onto bodies and removal of self-determination, something that could well refer to current self-determination debates on the nature of Spain and Spanishness.

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