The Skin I Live In (2011)
A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
In honor of his late wife who died in a flaming car accident, scientist, Dr. Robert Ledgard, is trying to synthesize the perfect skin which can withstand burns, cuts or any other kind of damage. As he gets closer to perfecting this skin on his flawless patient, the scientific community starts growing skeptical and his past is revealed that shows how his patient is closely linked to tragic events he would like to forget.
- The camera pans along the town of Toledo in Spain, and across the gated entrance to the clinic/estate known as El Cigarral. In one room, a young dark haired woman, Vera Cruz (Elena Anaya), does yoga stretched over a sofa. Vera wears only a flesh colored bodystocking that covers her whole body completely, except for her head. It covers her hands and fingers, and her feet and toes. She's then seen meditating while she sits in a lotus position on the floor. She works with ceramic sculptures, applying strips of a material that seems to match that of her bodystocking, to one of them.
El Cigarral's chief maid, Marilia (Marisa Paredes), asks an assistant maid to help her with a dumbwaiter. Marilia carries a tray with food and drink, a book, and some cloth. With the assistant's help, Marilia opens the dumbwaiter and puts everything she's carrying inside it, before sending it up to Vera's room. Retrieving the items, Vera uses an intercom in her room to request some sackcloth and double-sided tape. Marilia tells her that she won't be able to get these for Vera until tomorrow. Vera then requests some thread, and a needle and pair of scissors, but Marilia's response shows she's not supposed to provide these for Vera at all. Vera then goes to her closet, where a number of garments hang; all are badly torn. She takes out a green print dress and puts it on over her bodystocking, and tears a strip off of it.
The scene switches to a lecture hall where a surgeon named Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is giving a lecture on rebuilding facial muscles and features in burn victims. He's personally participated in several face-transplant surgeries, and rebuilding scarred and burned faces seems to be his primary passion.
That evening, Ledgard drives into the garage for a maternity hospital. A man walks up to his car and hands him a large case, for which Ledgard pays him. Ledgard is then seen driving up to El Cigarral; he is the owner of the estate, and lives there as well as running its clinic. Taking the bag he was given at the hospital, which we see contains a pouch of blood, Ledgard brings it to his lab and examines a sample, before putting the rest of the pouch in a container of dry ice.
Ledgard goes into his room and turns on a large-screen television, which is hooked up to a camera in Vera's room. Vera lays in her bed, seemingly asleep, though she's not covered with her blanket. He takes a tin containing opium and a bong and goes to her room, which is adjacent to his. Ledgard unlocks the door for her room, showing she's confined inside it. There he sees that Vera has cut her wrists and breasts in a suicide attempt. Quickly he brings her to an operating room in the estate and patches her up. As he tends to the cuts above Vera's breasts, the ungrateful woman tells him that she'll only try again unless he finishes her off himself. Ledgard doesn't take her seriously, saying she'd have cut her throat if she was serious about killing herself. He does seem preoccupied with Vera's skin; with the bodystocking removed, he notes that her skin is softer than he thought it would be.
The next morning, Marilia brings Ledgard some animal blood, drained from it while it was still alive. Ledgard brings it to his lab. We see that Ledgard is conducting research in the development of a synthetic compound that looks, and even feels remarkably like human skin. On a gurney in the lab is a mannequin of a female body. Ledgard brings a sample of the skin compound over to the gurney and carefully applies some of the compound onto the mannequin. Using this as a guide, we then see he's applied some of the compound onto Vera's body. The synthetic skin apparently is tougher than real skin and can resist burns. He carefully runs a device that emits a short discharge of low-temperature flame over her leg, and she feels no pain until he passes it over another part of her leg. He also holds a jar with the opening against her skin; the jar contains a mosquito. The mosquito does not land on Vera at any time; it doesn't try to bite her.
Ledgard is giving a presentation at a biomedicinal symposium, discussing this synthetic skin compound, which he has named GAL, after his late wife, who burned to death in a car crash. This synthetic skin not only resists burns, but masks human odors from biting insects such as mosquitoes, so that they won't bite; this can prevent the diseases they carry, including malaria. Ledgard tells the symposium members that he's conducted experiments with this compound on athymic (hairless) mice, and the results have surpassed his expectations, leading him to believe that it's ready for human testing.
During a break, the symposium chairman asks Ledgard about his research. He's suspicious, because Ledgard has stated that the synthetic skin compound is stronger and tougher than real human skin, and this can only be accomplished by mutating it. Ledgard admits that he's done transgenesis on the compound; transferring genetic information from pig skin cells into human cells. He justifies this by pointing out similar experiments that are done on meat, fruits, vegetables, and clothing material every day; despite the moral implications, he believes that paradoxically, it's the next step in improving human life, as it could cure many diseases and stop many known genetic deformities. Nonetheless, this is a line that the chairman refuses to cross... or let Ledgard cross. He warns Ledgard that unless he discontinues this research, he'll report him to the medical community. Ledgard tells the chairman not to worry; GAL was a personal venture he did in memory of his late wife, nothing more.
Arriving home, Ledgard goes to his room and looks in on Vera, who lays on her bed, reading. As he watches her, zooming in the camera, her eyes suddenly drift toward it, as if she knew he was watching her at just that moment.
Ledgard brings the opium tin to Vera. As he fills the bong, she asks if there's any further improvements he wishes to make. Ledgard says there's no further work required. He's done all he can, with and for, Vera, and she can now boast of having the best skin in the world. But when Vera asks what will become of her now, he gets evasive and defensive. When he gets up to leave, Vera hurries to the door and blocks him, and starts coming on to him. She knows that Ledgard likes her, and although the camera in her room is hidden, she knows about it, and knows where it is. Because of the time he spends watching her, she's starting to feel that they practically live together. Ledgard gets very flustered, hurrying out of the room. When he gets back to his room, he sees, on his monitor, Vera giving an amorous look straight into the camera-- at him.
The next day, as Ledgard eats breakfast, a television news program talks about a carnival underway. Marilia tells him that he made a mistake using Gal's face as a model, and she'd have warned him about it if she knew beforehand. Now, Vera looks too much like her, which puts Ledgard in a quandary; Marilia believes that Ledgard has to either kill Vera or keep her captive on the estate indefinitely... and if he doesn't kill her, she'll attempt suicide again. Moreover, Marilia is as certain as Vera is, that Ledgard is falling for Vera. Ledgard tells Marilia to dismiss all the assistants and servants from employ.
As three of these servants are seen leaving the estate, a man in carnival getup approaches and rings the intercom at the front gate. He tells Marilia he's here to see his mother, who he hasn't seen in ten years. He knows that she wasn't among the servants that just left. Marilia orders the man to leave, but in response he he turns around and moons the camera... showing a birth mark on his posterior that Marilia recognizes. The man is her own son, Zeca (Roberto Alamo). She lets him onto the estate, although she says he can only stay a few minutes.
But it quickly becomes clear that Zeca is looking for more than just a few minutes to catch up with his mother. Zeca is also acquainted with Ledgard, having seen a presentation he gave in Madrid, and tracked him back to El Cigarral. Worse, he's taken part in a jewelry store robbery where he killed one of the employees, and is seeking shelter from the police on the estate. He also wants Ledgard to perform plastic surgery on his face, now that it's plastered all over every wanted poster in Spain. Marilia tells Zeca that Ledgard would kill him as soon as look at him. She wants Zeca sent on his way, but he continues acting as if he has the full run of the estate.
As Zeca grabs a bottle of wine, he sees one of the kitchen monitors for Vera's room, and sees Vera doing yoga. As he watches, Vera looks up, and peers into the camera, sensing she's being watched. Zeca mistakes Vera for Gal, who he's shown to have known before her death. Marilia pulls a gun on Zeca and orders him to leave the estate. But she can't pull the trigger, and Zeca grabs the gun away.
Zeca ties Marilia to a chair and jams a rag into her mouth. As he searches the mansion for Vera's room, she can hear the noise he makes, and it makes her increasingly nervous. Zeca finds the door to Vera's room locked, and comes back downstairs, making Marilia tell him where the key is. He takes the key and goes back to Vera's room. As he opens the door, Vera kicks it back in his face and tries to run, but he grabs her ankle and drags her back to him. As he wrestles her down, she wants to know who he is, and it's shown at this point that Zeca is responsible for Gal's death; he caused the fiery car crash that killed her. Still thinking that Vera is Gal, he wants to rape her. He starts tearing open her bodystocking and roughly feeling her up. When Zeca says he wants to make Ledgard do the plastic surgery on his face, Vera sees this as an opportunity of escape. She offers to volunteer as a kidnap victim that Zeca can use as leverage against Ledgard, and she'll submit to sex with Zeca if he lets her go afterward. As Zeca takes Vera, on her bed, he doesn't understand why she's acting like she's in pain-- Gal never did, and Zeca still doesn't know that Vera isn't Gal.
Ledgard arrives home, much earlier than Marilia, and therefore Zeca, expected. Ledgard sees Marilia tied up and then looks at Zeca having sex with Vera, through the monitor. Ledgard takes Marilia's gun and goes upstairs. Vera sees Ledgard over Zeca's shoulder and stares vacantly; both Vera and Marilia hoping that Ledgard will kill Vera as well as Zeca. But at the last second, Ledgard re-aims the gun, and kills Zeca without harming Vera.
Ledgard brings the opium tin to Vera so she can calm down. As she smokes the bong, Marilia cleans up. She confides something in Vera, something that neither Ledgard nor Zeca ever knew: they're half-brothers. Marilia is Ledgard's mother as well as Zeca's. Ledgard's father was the owner of the estate beforehand, and he fathered Robert during an affair with Marilia, because Mrs. Ledgard was sterile; but after Robert was born, the Ledgards passed him off as the son of both Mr. and Mrs. Ledgard, although Marilia was the one who raised him. One of the household servants latered fathered Zeca through Marilia. Marilia blames herself for both Ledgard and Zeca being insane, saying she carries a gene for it, and both her children became afflicted.
Zeca grew up on the streets, ran drugs as a child, and Marilia didn't see him until twelve years ago, when he showed up looking for shelter. Marilia hid him in a shed, but Gal found him and developed a crush on him. Gal agreed to run away with Zeca, but their car crashed and began burning.
Here, it's revealed that Gal didn't die in the crash itself, even though Zeca ran from the burning wreck and left Gal there to die. Ledgard found his wife, horribly burned and scarred. He saved her life and cared for her day and night on the estate. It was during this time that he began doing the research that led to the synthetic skin compound. Ledgard removed all mirrors from the house and made sure Gal slept during the day and was only awake at night. Miraculously, Gal began to improve and recover, and one day she could walk without help. But this led to tragedy, as one morning Gal was awakened by the sound of her and Ledgard's daughter, Norma, singing a song that Gal taught her. Gal got up and crossed to the window... and saw her reflection in it after pushing aside the curtains and opening the blinds. Unable to bear the sight of her reflection, Gal hurled herself through the window to her death, right in front of Norma. So traumatized by the experience was the young girl, that she eventually committed suicide as well, in the same manner.
Ledgard arrives home, and Vera gives him a look of deep compassion. They're making love in Ledgard's bed when Vera finds her vagina is too sore to finish. Ledgard agrees to wait until tomorrow night, and they fall asleep in each other's arms.
As they sleep, the scene shifts to show Ledgard's dreams: a wedding that took place six years prior. Ledgard helped hook up a friend of his, Casilda Efraiz (Teresa Manresa) with her husband, and he's now attending her wedding. Also attending is Norma, grown to young adulthood (Blanca Suárez). Norma is out of a psychiatric hospital and doing well on therapy and medication, socializing with Casilda's nieces. As she and her new friends sip beverages, they smile at some handsome young men nearby.
As everyone dances to a band and singer, Ledgard happens to notice a few of Casilda's nieces chatting with young men. Norma isn't among them. He goes looking for her, and among the trees outside, he hears the moaning of several young women having sex with other young male guests. Carefully looking from the cover of trees, he still doesn't see Norma. As he continues looking, he sees one young man riding out of the estate on a motorcycle. Retracing the path that the motorcycle came from, he finds Norma's shoes and sweater discarded on the ground. Not far from there, he finds Norma laying on the ground under a tree, unconscious. He hurries to her side, but as she awakens, she only screams hysterically at the sight of her father.
We see Ledgard back in the present, shifting in bed and awakening from the bad memory of his dreams. He glances over one shoulder to see Vera sound asleep beside him. As he turns over and puts an arm around Vera, we see a close-up of her face and then her own dreams.
A young man, Vicente (Jan Cornet), who Norma had smiled at during the wedding, is working in a dress shop owned by his mother. He picks up one dress and offers it to his mother's assistant, Cristina (Bárbara Lennie) as a gift. Vicente has a crush on Cristina, but she doesn't return his affections because she's a lesbian and dating another woman. She tells Vicente, if he likes the dress so much, he should wear it himself.
Vicente's mother tells him to leave Cristina alone, and he says he needs to get going, anyway; his friend Jorge is bringing him to Casilda's wedding. Although Vicente wasn't invited himself, Jorge knows one of Casilda's nieces and told Vicente he could get him in. Vicente needs to get changed and they'll just be attending the after-wedding dance party. As a man comes into the shop to sell off his wife's clothes (she runs off every so often, leaving he and their son), Vicente gets on his motorcycle and rides off.
Ledgard and Vera are shown again, still asleep, as Vera's dreams continue.
At the wedding, Vicente attracts the notice of Norma. She smiles at him, and he smiles back. Several of Casilda's nieces walk out into the gardens with Jorge and some of his friends. Vicente and Norma also accompany them, but quickly lag behind. The young men and women are drinking, smoking pot, and it's easy to see what's on all their minds.
Vicente and Norma both seem a little shy with one another, but hold hands as they walk off into the trees on their own. Vicente asks Norma if she's taken any 'high' pills, like he, his friends, and a number of Casilda's nieces have all been doing. Norma, misunderstanding, recites a list of psychotropic medications she's on.
As they continue walking through the gardens, Norma trips on one of her high heels, and getting exasperated with them, she kicks them off, and then pulls off her sweater. She chuckles unsteadily; Vicente thinking she's high like all the others, as he doesn't know about the psychosis she's suffered and is still recovering from. When Norma innocently mentions that clothes make her claustrophobic and she would be naked if it were her choice, Vicente, again misunderstanding, offers to help her undress. He starts kissing and fondling her as he starts sliding down the shoulder straps for her dress; laying her down gently against a tree.
But as he pulls his pants down and enters her, Norma starts to panic. Starting to become aware of what Vicente is doing, she rebels and starts pushing him away. Vicente covers her mouth with his hand so the main wedding reception doesn't overhear her cries. Norma catches part of his hand in her teeth and bites down on it hard. Suddenly furious, Vicente smacks her face, knocking her unconscious. Vicente gets scared and carefully straightens Norma's clothing out, putting her slip and the straps of her dress back up over her shoulders, covering her breasts, and sliding her panties back up and pulling the hem of her dress down again. He then hurries out of the estate, not noticing that Ledgard has observed him leaving and has noted the license plate number for his motorcycle.
A week later, Vicente has stopped taking the uppers and is sober again. Although his mother and Cristina know he finds the town boring, Cristina is surprised when Vicente suddenly announces he wants to travel for a while. For now, though, he just wants to get some air and ride around a bit, and he'll be home for supper that evening. He never makes it: a van starts following him, and off the bend of a lonely stretch of road, the van forces Vicente off the road, and the masked driver shoots him with a tranquilizer dart. He loads Vicente and his motorcycle into the van and drives off.
Vicente awakens, chained to a wall in a stone shed. His kidnapper has left him a large pail of drinking water, and he drinks thirstily.
Vicente's mother sees a police captain, who tells her that Vicente's motorcycle was found at the bottom of the Finistere Cliffs, completely destroyed; his body presumed swept out to sea. His officers questioned all of his friends and Cristina as well, and all of them mentioned that Vicente was tired of the town and wanted to leave. If he WAS alive, he would be very far away. Vicente's mother refuses to accept this, insisting that Vicente would have notified her if he wasn't coming home for supper like he said he would, and that he must have been kidnapped.
Ledgard goes to see Norma, who has again been hospitalized at a neuropsychiatric institute. The assault has sent her into complete retrogress back into her psychosis. She's terrified at the sight of any male, including Ledgard himself. Any male who is near her makes her see Vicente again, and she becomes hysterical. Even though Ledgard is careful not to touch her, Norma only whimpers and cries as she crawls into a closet. The nurses cannot put any fitted clothing other than a standard hospital gown onto her, because she tears them off.
Vicente remains locked in the shed, awakening one morning to find the water pail has been refilled while he slept. But he's half-starved and going crazy from the solitary confinement.
Vicente's kidnapper finally comes into the shed: it's Ledgard. He washes Vicente down with a garden hose and throws him a towel. He unhooks the chains from the ring they're fastened to, onto another ring that's closer to the table so that Vicente can sit. The next day, Ledgard brings him food and a warm robe. He still hasn't told Vicente why he's holding him prisoner.
Norma has committed suicide, jumping out the hospital window. At her funeral, Ledgard blames the hospital and the chief psychiatrist. Despite his sorrow, he wants to work. He can't sleep and needs to occupy his mind.
Ledgard shaves Vicente's face as the young man tries to appeal to him as the father of a young girl. Some of Norma's childhood toys are in the shed, so Vicente speaks about how his own mother must be sick with worry. Ledgard says only that he buried his daughter earlier that day, before saying he's putting some aftershave on Vicente's face. This is a lie; the aftershave is really chloroform which Ledgard uses to knock Vicente out.
Ledgard brings Vicente into the operating room on El Cigarral, strips him naked and fastens him securely to the operating table. A number of members of Ledgard's medical team arrive. They all done masks, gloves and scrubs, preparing to help him operate. When Vicente awakens, the team has departed, and Ledgard tells Vicente the cruel truth about the operation: a vaginoplasty. Ledgard removed Vicente's penis and has given him a woman's vagina.
Ledgard confines Vicente in a private room in the clinic and brings something to him. He tells Vicente that the labia of his new genitalia are still tender and could start to stick together. Ledgard has brought him a number of dildos of varying width. Starting with the narrowest, he needs to place them into the vagina until the largest dildo can fit without pain or discomfort, at which point the tissues will be healed.
Ledgard is examining Vicente after he's been using the largest dildo for four weeks, and he tells Vicente that the vagina looks healed. Vicente thinks maybe now Ledgard will let him go home... but Ledgard says he hasn't finished work; he's only just begun.
Ledgard won't say what more remains to be done, but he finally explains the reason behind it; why he's done all this, including kidnapping Vicente in the first place. Revenge. Ledgard knows that Vicente raped Norma, resulting in her psychotic regression and recent suicide... and he's exacting a terrible revenge.
As time passes, Vicente's physical transformation is complete. He has real breasts, and his skin has been enhanced with Ledgard's synthetic "GAL" skin compound, a little at a time. His face is covered with a plastic cast-mask, and his hair hasn't grown back in. Ledgard brings him a bodystocking to protect his new skin and help his body fully adjust to its new feminine shape.
He finishes putting the bodystocking on, asking Ledgard to help zip up the back. But as he does so, Vicente viciously elbows him in the groin, knocks him down and takes his keys, trying to escape. But Ledgard quickly uses a wireless remote to activate the estate's master security switch, locking all the doors and windows.
Vicente finds a knife and threatens Ledgard with it, but Ledgard has recovered his pistol. As he advances, Vicente slits his own throat in a suicide attempt. However, Ledgard quickly patches him up and he survives.
Several more weeks pass. Ledgard removes the mask, revealing Gal/Vera's face underneath it. Ledgard finishes wiping the last traces of Vicente away from his prisoner, renaming him Vera. It's seen now that Vera was more than just a test subject for the synthetic skin compound Ledgard had developed-- and medical science and healing was never his intent as far as using it on Vicente, went. As punishment for the rape and eventual death of Norma, Vicente has now ceased to exist and is to be renamed Vera.
Ledgard has placed a number of dresses in Vicente room so he can clothe him, but Vicente rebels, angrily tearing them all to shreds and using the vacuum tube in his room to clean them all out. Ledgard sends some make-up kits and books on applying make-up to his room via the dumbwaiter. Vicente only takes a few mascara brushes and writing markers, sending the rest back up, saying through the intercom that he doesn't want them.
Ledgard provides Vicente with a large TV set, and while channel-surfing, he finds a program about yoga. Listening to the instructor's lecture on how practice of yoga can provide an inner place of refuge, peace, and freedom, Vicente requests some books on yoga and begins practicing it. Later, he watches a program on ceramics and gets started on that as well.
Ledgard has brought Marilia back to El Cigarral to help him look after the estate and Vera. Ledgard tells Marilia little about Vera, other than "she" has been a patient at the estate's clinic. From the small talk, we see that Marilia has been away from the estate for just over four years.
In his room, Vicente writes the dates 9/10/2006 and 9/11/2006 along the top of one wall, near the left corner.
Ledgard and Marilia observe Vicente writing feverishly on the wall. Marilia says that Vicente learned of Marilia's presence, contacted her through the intercom, and asked Marilia her name... and what the date was. When Marilia told him the date, Vicente started covering the walls of his room with writings. The top of one wall is a collection of consecutive calendar dates. At one point we see a span lasting from July 2008 to April of 2010.
Ledgard doesn't tell Marilia much about Vera, but Marilia is no fool. She recognizes Vera's face as Gal's.
The walls of Vicente/Vera's room become covered with various writings, like a diary or journal. He writes a number of yoga mantras over and over, along with more calendar dates, including a stretch from March to December of 2011. We also see the sentence, 'opium helps me forget.' When she's reached the bottom of one wall, we see her writing the date February 10, 2012.
We return to the present; the morning after Ledgard and Vera slept together. Vera has earned the privilege of coming downstairs to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for herself and Ledgard, although Marilia is wary of this, not trusting Vera. As Ledgard and Vera eat, they talk about a promise they made to each other the previous night. Vera was no longer a prisoner on the estate, but a tenant. In return for her freedom, she's promised never to leave Ledgard. He's started to win over her affections.
Ledgard has arranged for Marilia to take Vera shopping in town. Marilia doesn't like it, and packs her gun in her purse. Vera comes downstairs, nicely dressed, including black stockings and high heel shoes. Ledgard tells her she can buy whatever she likes; Marilia has his credit cards.
Ledgard's colleague and co-worker, Fulgencio (Eduard Fernández), comes by, wanting to talk about the clinic, even though, as Ledgard has said, he has stopped using El Cigarral as a clinic after the warning from the biotechnology institute's president. Fulgencio says his team is willing to rent some of the rooms, as patients love the isolated setting, but Ledgard refuses curtly, sending Fulgencio away.
But instead of leaving, Fulgencio follows Ledgard to his study. We see Ledgard's pistol in his desk drawer as he lights up a smoke, before Fulgencio walks in. Fulgencio says he wants to show Ledgard the day's newspaper. On the front page is an article about two hundred young men and women that have gone missing over the last ten years. One of the photos is of Vicente, who Fulgencio recognizes as the patient he helped perform the vaginoplasty on. The newspaper article shows that Vicente was last seen by his family on September 10, 2006... and that now, six years later, his mother is still desperately trying to find him.
Fulgencio and the rest of the medical team had always assumed that Vicente had chosen to undergo genital surgery, even though he was surprised that Vicente hadn't chosen to undergo hormone therapy. But now, in light of the newspaper article, and because he knows the documents supplied by Ledgard were false, Fulgencio has figured out that Ledgard kidnapped Vicente and used him as a test subject for Ledgard's synthetic skin compound... using trangenic techniques on a someone Ledgard had kidnapped. Transgenesis being strictly prohibited to begin with on ethical grounds, Fulgencio knows what kind of trouble Ledgard could be facing.
Ledgard knows that Fulgencio intends to blackmail him, for Fulgencio's personal gain and benefit. He pulls his gun and orders Fulgencio off the property, as a subtle warning to watch what he says to who.
As Fulgencio starts to back out, Vera comes into the study, having returned from her shopping trip. She's overheard part of the conversation, and tells Fulgencio that she has come to the clinic of her own free will, and that her name isn't Vicente, but Vera Cruz; she was always a woman. She sits casually on Ledgard's lap as Fulgencio leaves. Vera happens to glance down and sees the photo in the newspaper, and getting very nervous, she asks Ledgard for a cigarette.
That evening, Ledgard and Vera are making love in his room. But Vera finds her vaginal area is still a little sore after Zeca tried to rape her. She's picked up some lubricant cream, but she can't find it among her shopping bags. She realizes it's still in her purse, which she left in Ledgard's study. Ledgard tells her that she can go down to the study to retrieve it.
As Vera retrieves her purse, she takes Ledgard's gun out of his desk and puts it in the purse. She stares sadly at the photo of Vicente in the newspaper, and kisses it before hurrying back upstairs.
Upstairs, Vera first tosses the tube of cream to Ledgard, who begins opening it with anticipation; only to find Vera holding the gun on him, telling him she's going to kill him, and her promise to him was a lie. She fires once, hitting him in the left side of his chest.
Marilia is awakened by the sound of the shot. Knowing there's big trouble, she grabs her gun and hurries up to Ledgard's room, crying out in shock and dismay as she sees him-- her son-- lying dead on his bed. Spewing words of venom at Vera, Marilia sweeps the room with her gun. Of course, Vera's hiding place is the one place that Marilia doesn't look or anticipate: under the bed. Vera's hand and arm slide out from under the bed and she kills Marilia.
Finally free from captivity and the need to play along with Ledgard's twisted whims, Vicente walks out of El Cigarral. The next day, a taxicab drops him back off at his mother's dress shop. Mrs. Piñeiro sends Cristina out to tend to him.
Cristina is surprised when Vicente knows her name. Vicente lowers his voice to a whisper as he reveals that he is Vicente; he's been given a sex change, only escaped from his kidnappers after killing two people, and now he's come to Cristina for help. Cristina stares, not knowing what to make of the story, until Vera pulls off his jacket; he's wearing the dress he wanted to give Cristina on the day of Casilda's wedding; the one Cristina told Vicente that he should wear himself if he liked it so much.
This is something that only Vicente would know, and Cristina and Vicente both begin to cry. Mrs. Piñeiro comes out to see what's wrong, and the movie ends with Vicente softly telling his mother, "Soy Vicente" (I'm Vicente).