From one film about manly hunting men to the next, also gracing Netflix on this fine Friday is The Skin of the Wolf or in its native language Bajo La piel del Lobo, a Spanish drama by Samu Fuentes which concerns the love life of a mountain man who roams a ghost town in Northern Spain.
Martinón (Mario Casas) is a gruff fellow who certainly looks the part; a somewhat less steroidal Jason Momoa, and about as chatty. Bored out of his nut with hunting and doing up the gaff, he decides, thanks in part to the urging of his friend Severino (Kandido Uranga), to venture into the near-ish town where he sells his pelts to negotiate the purchase of a wife. This is the late 19th Century, you see, and such things were acceptable then. His bargain hunting takes him to Ubaldo (Armando Aguirre), who’s willing to offer his daughter, Pascuala (Ruth Diaz), for a reasonable price. And off they pop, together, into the mountains.
The Skin of the Wolf is, above all else, a character study, and it’s bolstered by a sturdy performance from Mario Casas in the lead role. He stalks the harsh environment with a steely stillness and is subjected to a series of incidents that force him to grow and evolve. The supporting cast does their bit, giving physical, often quiet performances, but the movie belongs to Casas and the landscape.
Fuentes, making his feature debut, has a style not unlike a documentarian. His preference for art-house pacing makes The Skin of the Wolf an occasionally aggravating experience, and at almost two hours it could stand to be brisker. What couldn’t, however, are the unrelenting mountains, photographed excellently by Aitor Mantxola in their imposing, chilly splendor; the film’s staggering backdrops are the most compelling reason to see it, but the tour The Skin of the Wolf takes through them might be a little too scenic for the average viewer.