Reviewed by: Sarah Artt

Olga (Daniela Costa) has everything: education, wealth, beauty and social position. At university she studies biology and tells her Aunt Adelaide that she wants to graduate at the top of her class. But, when she is turned down to be an assistant instructor, she knows the reason is not her gender but her ethnic origins. The daughter of her father's Angolan mistress and his only heir, Olga has all the trappings of an elegant life in the Lisbon of the late 1960s, but her mixed race is still a barrier to either an academic career or a society marriage. With obvious similarities to Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows and Todd Haynes' sumptuous homage Far From Heaven, Skin breaks with the melodramatic tradition by allowing its heroine greater agency in determining her fate.

Revolted by the advances of a suitor at a masked ball who equates her race with easy virtue, Olga pines for a relationship of equals. Though her cousin Jacinto finds her attractive, Olga knows Jacinto is primarily interested in marrying his title to her fortune. Jacinto (Nascimento) is also the beau of Olga's close friend Isabel (Madruga) and his attraction to Olga creates an awkwardness between the girls.

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Fed up with the upper class, Olga turns her attention to the chauffeur Fernando (Wiborg), whom she claims people see as more 'on her level' because of his lower class status. When Olga's father returns from Angola due to failing health, Olga becomes even more conflicted. Although her father sent her to Lisbon to be educated and cared for by her Aunt Adelaide (Lapa) and she has been raised with every advantage, Olga blames her father for absenting himself from most of her life and robbing her of a relationship with her birth mother.

When her father discovers Olga and Fernando en flagrante delicto Olga breaks with her family and sets up on her own. Taken up by a trio of theatre folk whom she met in a nightclub, Olga soon finds her niche as a budding dancer and cabaret star. Accepted at last in a mileu where her ethnicity is a distinct advantage rather than a setback, Olga yearns to reconcile with her family. However, Adelaide and Jacinto dissaprove of her life in the theatre and want nothing more than to carry her back to the upper strata of society Olga found so confining and judgmental.

Skin is visually stunning to watch and impeccably styled. The production designer must have a had a field day dressing Olga's op art boudoir and sourcing her fabulous minidresses. The party scenes as well as Olga's later cabaret performances are all lavishly filmed. The standout performanes are undoubtedly Fernanda Lapa as Olga's engagingly warm Aunt Adelaide and Daniela Costa as the striking, vibrant Olga.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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A young Portuguese woman battles the constraints of racial and class prejudice.

Director: Fernando Vendrell

Writer: Carla Baptista, based on the novel by Henrique Galvao

Starring: Daniela Costa, Franciso Nascimento, Manuel Wiborg, Fernanda Lapa, Nuria Madruga

Year: 2006

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: Portugal


EIFF 2006

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If you like this, try:

Far From Heaven