“The Skin” From the first glance, Cavani’s film (which on the level of the plot is about American liberation of Italy in 1944) is about human history – how historical process smashes human beings as a tank rolls over the human body crushing it (one among many images of the film it is impossible to forget). But step by step it becomes evident that the film is about two fascisms – one is ideological, obvious, with Mussolini or Franco’s voice, which comes to us, inhabitants of democracy, from outside us, and the other is internal, psychological, which is inside us and ready to act out. The film is also about the innocence – people’s inability to notice and to confront the fascism inside all of us.
But, according to the film, our cognitive innocence (connected with a deficit in our humanistic education) makes us also unable to recognize fascism hidden in commercial calculation (if it subdues/seduces human psyche to its logic). In “The Skin” we see a lot of business activity in post-fascist Italy. Cavani emphasizes that fascism survived its political, ideological and military defeat in the form of commercial activity that uses human beings including children as sexual goods, and virginity and “freshly” dead human bodies as a sale items.
For us, Americans today, when American conservative leadership in tune with global corporations and our military-industrial complex prepares future wars and through creating economic collapse enlarges the gap between rich minority and poor majority, it is very important to confront the fact that wars and commerce (if the last one only interested in profit and without human dignity) are twins, exactly as Cavani shows it. This film deserved to be watched with amazement because already in 1981 she predicted today’s extreme economic and psychological situation in US.
We see general (Burt Lancaster) posing in front of cameras which will deliver his victorious image to American media, and liberal writer which noticing everything and accepting whatever he witness without a shade of criticism. Why the title of the film is “The Skin”? The film is about our proclivity to verify human being by its appearance – by his/her look as a human being. But what’s under the skin is the danger of fascist brutality. And we better become conscious about it. Cavani’s “The Skin” can help us to become more alert to the danger of internal (psychological) fascism.