Artistically Crafted But Alienating For Mainstream Audiences
Spanish Netflix Original The Skin Of The Wolf is an artistically crafted, beautifully shot film valuing aesthetics and technicality over story and characterisation, much to the detriment of this film. The opening 20 minutes are shot in predominant silence, bar a few sound effects, and from here onward the film takes an exhausting amount of time to get to the heart of the story. While the film sticks very closely to the method of show don’t tell, The Skin Of The Wolf takes this message far too literally, making for an interesting film to examine and study but not very enjoyable to watch as an entertainment piece.
The story begins in the heart of the wilderness with isolated recluse Martinón (Mario Casas) who spends his time hunting and killing wolves for money while sustaining his farm and surrounding area. All of this makes for a long opening as we’re introduced to Martinón’s life through a series of exhausting long shots and breathtaking vistas. The initial premise revolves around Martinón buying a wife to relieve his loneliness while dealing with emotional trauma and the trials and tribulations of married life.
The plot itself is relatively straight forward and there’s a fair amount of thematic importance to a lot of the shots depicted within the film but most of this is hidden behind the subtext of what’s displayed on screen. Seeing Martinón’s physical displays of anger during a particularly traumatic moment with a single long shot in the distance while standing in make-shift graveyard may make for an artistically pleasing scene but dragging this on for 90 seconds feels unnecessary in a film that revels in its slow, methodical pace.
This tunnelled focus on delivering a technically impressive, artistically crafted film rather than one that’s both entertaining and involving is really the biggest downfall of The Skin Of The Wolf. The simplistic plot and basic characterisation leave little room for investing in Martinón’s struggles and his prickly demeanour coupled with a lack of dialogue or sound early on when we first see him does the character and the film no favours.
When the credits roll at the end of this Spanish film there’s an overwhelming feeling of mediocrity hanging over the picture. Sure the technicality and photography are gorgeously shot but when a film like this lacks pacing, characterisation and a compelling story, all of these things are pretty meaningless. The Skin Of The Wolf is inevitably likely to be one of those films that critics love and audiences hate. For that reason, it’s difficult to recommend this one on anything but a purely artistic level and even then, it pales in comparison to other films that have managed to achieve technical feats while providing a compelling story.