Under the Skin (2013)


Under the Skin (2013)I’m still trying to get over what I saw last night, some of the images have been permanently burned into the back of my retina, they were that powerful at times in Under the Skin (2013). You could say that Scarlett Johansson is on a role, taking part in some exciting films. From the vocal role in Her (2013) to more recently Lucy (2014) which I have waiting to be watched. For science fiction I would never have chosen Scotland as a location, I guess because it’s so close to home, too normal, being across the border, a country that in many ways looks the same on the face of the streets away from the landmarks. It’s also thinking in the box an alien could easily land in Scotland as it would in America somewhere and usually is the case.

You also have to bear in mind that Jonathan Glazer comes from the UK so is more likely to set a film over here. Having only made two films previously that have both leave an impact on the audience. I was left horrified by Birth (2004) which I felt crossed a line of decency. The very possibility that a young boy could be a woman’s reincarnated husband. To the striking off-beat gangster Sexy Beast (2000) that brought out another side to Ben Kingsley who is belligerent in getting a retired gangster to do one more job. Thats nothing compared Under the Skin (2013) which has an uncanny ability to literally get under your skin. From the opening sequence that reminds me more of Kubrick than Interstellar (2014) did, digital or not I just don’t care, hypnotising you as we travel through space moving from spherical object to another before cutting to Johansson’s eye, the eye of a stranger to our world that we first see stripping a dead woman, taking on her form, unbeknownst to the audience.

She, the female with no given name travels around Scotland’s streets observing all who walk past her van. It’s rare chance to see through the female gaze, looking on at the unwitting male who is being preyed upon with eyes from a distance. We have seen it so many times as men look on at women of all shapes and sizes. There is however a darker reason that just sexual conquest, acting only as a guise for a honey trap that takes mens lives. Chatting them up casually from her van, acting innocent, not knowing her own power as a woman and sexual being, her innocence isn’t even known to herself as she eyes up her victim so slyly, they don’t know their death is close at hand.

A sequence in itself is something I cannot easily forget, the power of flesh is strong for both prey and predator as they enter the dark reflective space, undressing for two very different reasons. Holding a mirror unto the act of rape, two individuals with very different thought processes, one with intent to invade anthers body without consent, whilst the other fights for freedom from their situation. Of course I cannot really describe such a horrible act and I don’t want to. Seeing more the similarity mirrored as the female plays the dominant role, leading an unsuspecting male to his demise. One that is not quick at first, almost like a dreamlike state, even a coma, trapped between one world and the other before the inevitable takes hold, pulling you away, almost instantly.

I can only guess that the female and male on the motorbike (Jeremy McWilliams) who travel the country seeking out men, who must provide the right/nearest energy they need to survive. One day leaving only females on the planet if they carried on. Things only change when she meets her third victim, a deformed man (Adam Pearson) who has never had any attention/affection from women, which we discover through innocent questions, drawing out not just the inquisitive nature within her but also a heart which she did not first possess or knew she had comes into being. The alien is becoming human, an unknown state and condition to be in, an alien state which scares her. A child trapped in an adults body emerges, unsure of the world around her and the body she inhabits, exploring it all, whilst still holding back from really knowing what life here is all about.

The final third of the film sees her transformation from a predator into her a victim, relying on the kindness of stranger to survive, trying to adapt to our way of life. Something the audiences becomes addicted to finding out how she gets on. All this comes to the final moments in the forest as she falls victim to her own power as a victim of an assault which leads her to demise in shocking form that unnerves not just the park ranger (Dave Acton) the audience has become accustomed to her human form, we forget that she is just a guise for an alien. It all becomes very human and disturbing in these final moments as the truth is revealed after being mesmerised, terrified and induced into this one of a kind film. So sparing on dialogue that when we hear it we listen all the more carefully. This is a film that will rarely come along, especially with a director who has only produced 3 in the last 11 years. He waits carefully before crafting such delicate pieces of cinema which provoke and inspire, leaving us on edge, with an other-worldly power lingering over you which I won’t be able to shake for days, like a dream that was so really, you find yourself question its own reality.

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4 responses

  1. It’s powerful, all right! Nice review.

    February 19, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    • I think it will remain that way too 🙂

      February 20, 2015 at 6:08 pm

  2. Really erie. But it hardly ever lost my interest. Good review Tim.

    February 20, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    • Cheers Dan, I was really gripped through this one.

      February 20, 2015 at 6:07 pm

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