Saturday, September 10, 2011

Second Skin

Directed by: Gerardo Vera
Written by: Ángeles González Sinde; Gerardo Vera
Starring: Javier Bardem; Jordi Molla; Ariadna Gil; Cecilia Roth
Release date(s): 2000
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish

I have seen a lot of people like Alberto, a character played by Jordi Mollà in the 2000 Spanish film ‘Second Skin’ (Segunda piel) (Not to be mistaken with 2008 film on the obsession with video games), which also stars Javier Bardem and Ariadna Gil, and I don’t have any patience for these kinds of people; they are the one who does not want take up the responsibility, and wants to have the best of both worlds. I even wrote a story about one such character.

But, the way Jordi Mollà plays the character, with such ambivalence, with this terrible combination of viciousness and naiveté, and he is so, so absurdly handsome and desirable, that before the film ends, you understand him, you understand his anguish. You understand how he was made all through the years, and when he dies, you feel story, really really sad, but know that perhaps it was the best thing ever happened to him.

In want of a better word, we can safely assume that Alberto was a homosexual. He was born and raised in a upper class educated family, “I always passed all those tests,” he says at one point, where he could never be true to his sexual orientation. “I’ve always told lies,” he confesses to his male lover, “I never considered them lies. They were a different personality altogether.” So, while he sought sex outside, he married a beautiful woman and had a son. Alberto loves his wife and kid, there’s no doubt about it; Elena loves him too. However, he recently met Diego, a doctor, and it’s a relationship that Alberto had been looking for all his life. When it came along, it was too late.

As Alberto begins to spend time with Diego, Elena becomes suspicious, especially as the couple is drifting apart from each other. She suspects there’s a woman involved, and she confronts Alberto. He effortlessly feeds the idea, yes, he slept with an old classmate, but only once, and everything is okay. Everything is okay for Alberto as long as nobody suspects his attraction to men.

There is lovely scene in the beginning of the film, of Alberto and Diego making love; you can feel their passion, especially how Alberto physically responds to it. As Mollà plays Alberto, we sense that he was never happy, as he’s in Diego apartment; “I like your flat.” He says and that’s the truth.

And, Mollà plays Albeto the family man in a completely different tone, tired, weary, cautious, perhaps a little guilty, perhaps a little ashamed.

Diego’s flat is the haven. But he’s uncomfortable when Diego introduces Alberto to his colleagues. “What will they think?” he says. “They don’t care about other people,” Diego answers. “But I do,” says Alberto. They have a fight. Then Elena listens to Diego’s voicemail in Alberto’s mobile, and she is devastated. She would have able to handle a woman in her husband’s life, but a man? Alberto says he has broken up with Diego, and everything is okay. This time, Elena doesn’t agree. She moves out of the house. Alberto’s self-loathing and confusion comes to a breaking point. He wants Elena and his son. He also wants Diego. Finally, he chooses Elena, and convinces her to return. He even suggests that they move out of the city, and start over. Elena seeks more time. She understands that Alberto’s sleeping with Diego was not an one-off thing. “Since when you’ve been sleeping with men,” she asks, and he breaks down. The truth is buried deep down. He cannot express it even if he wants to.

Alberto and Elena separates, and Alberto returns to Diego, who is more than accommodating, till one day, abruptly, Elena meets Diego and introduces herself. Till then Diego did not know that Alberto was married with a kid. He confronts Alberto, but Alberto is in no position to accept the truth.

He leaves Diego’s house in his motorcycle, crashes it, and dies. A while later, the lover and the wife meet. They have a shared grief, they both loved Alberto, who did not have any idea how lucky he was in love.

It was after a long time I have seen a film so magically involving, as if I have known these people all my life; as if I know why Diego play happy music when he’s sad, I know why Alberto wears the lather jacket and rides a very, very macho bike. And how Jordi Mollà plays Alberto, both as a victim and a perpetrator, is riveting!

And years later, he’d play another gay man in the 2009 film, ‘The Consul of Sodom.’

And just like that, I am a Jordi Mollà fan.

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