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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Skin of the Wolf is a 2018 film that explores human needs and failings at their most base. The Spanish-language film breaks those needs down to the minimum -- food, shelter, warmth -- and treats companionship as the most expendable need of all. A woman dies in childbirth along with her baby. Another has a miscarriage. Sex is portrayed without tenderness, but rather as the right of a man who is paying the bills. Scenes show a man setting traps for wolves. Dead wolves are seen. The process of creating skins is shown. A woman is agonizingly caught in a wolf trap. Her blackened foot is shown. A man points a gun at someone. A woman feeds poison to a man. This intense film may be too stark and slow-moving for most teens.
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What's the story?
THE SKIN OF THE WOLF is set in a remote mountainous region of Spain, where the nearest village is an overnight trek through treacherous woods. A wolf trapper (Mario Casas) lives alone in what looks to be an abandoned settlement. Empty stone buildings dot the hill. Graves cover a plateau. Where did everyone go? Why is he alone? We don't know. He lives without indoor plumbing or electricity, cooking meat he shot himself over an open fire in his cabin. The events depicted could take place now or a hundred years ago. He loads up wolf skins to sell in the village several days away on foot. There he spies a woman, the widowed daughter of a local, and later visits her, whereupon they have immediate, wordless sex with their clothes on. His next trip to the village he gives skins to the woman's father in exchange for the daughter. They share his hard life briefly, interspersed with more wordless and sentiment-free sex. She becomes sicker, and both she and her baby die in childbirth. He realizes he's been cheated by the father, who sold her off knowing she was sick and pregnant, and takes the man's youngest daughter. Although he seems to have some feelings of tenderness, he doesn't show them to the woman. She becomes pregnant and, aching to escape, starts to slowly poison him. Seeing his weakness, she leaves but is caught in a wolf trap. He nurses her back to health and gives her permission to leave. The film ends as he realizes that she poisoned his tea and that he is dying.
Is it any good?
This Spanish drama is stark, unsentimental, and harshly eloquent. With scarcely any dialogue, director Samu Fuentees conveys the difficult life of a man who lives off the land by his wits in a mountainous and inhospitable climate, far from civilization and conveniences of any kind. We see only what the man does, and although there are suggestions that he has feelings, The Skin of the Wolf gives little hints as to what he's thinking and feeling. Given how much of his time is spent simply surviving, it's clear that there's little time in his busy day for introspection, longing, wishing, or dreaming. Even when he acts out in anger after the death in childbirth of his wife and child, we have no idea if he is angry that he spent so much money and has received neither a child nor wife-laborer in return, or if the deaths have some deeper meaning for him. Mario Casas' performance as the trapper is a how-to on focused minimalism.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the simple conveniences of modern life that we take for granted. Have you thought about how helpful indoor plumbing, electric lights, heat, and air conditioning are? How much of our time do you think we'd have to spend building fires to cook, see in the dark, and warm ourselves, and dragging water into our homes and running outside for bathroom breaks?
The mountain man in The Skin of the Wolf shows tenderness to a baby goat but none to his two wives. Why do you think women are treated as property in the world portrayed here? How are things different now?
How does this compare to other foreign films you've seen?
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