Director: Jonathan Glazer
I’ll now attempt to talk about a very difficult and complex film – Under The Skin -. As you know I am usually enthusiastic about these sort of achievements in low budget and indie film making, but this time I was blown away, tormented from the beginning to the end of this film that stayed with me even after the screening so that it was difficult for me to fall asleep. This film can be easily called an experience.
But let’s start now.
Kudos to Scarlett Johansson for accepting to play this outlandish role far from her usual mainstream heroines that made her so huge and popular. This was a juicy occasion to proof herself as a complete thesp. The character she portrays is not a succuba (as many festival-goers were saying after the premieres) in my opinion. She’s more of an alien creature that wears a human disguise in order to carry on a plan that is obscure.
A very bizarre vibe is present from the first second of the film both visually and in the sound, the eerie musical score helps in crafting this lingering sense of unknown and supernatural. I don’t know why but the first musical segment (Creation by Mica Levi) gave me the shivers and it sounded like a more shadowy version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The music introduce us to the creation of the Female (Scarlett Johansson) in a sequence that is very surreal (Bunuel anyone? the ants referral, but just maybe), UPDATE: The score is nominated for a BAFTA. Why am I not surprised?
From there the plot basically revolves around The Female driving a van and luring men into getting on board. Once there she seduces them and lead them into the dark. The dark is a place that is also a dimensionless space, a liquid, ethereal black hole that absorbs and swallows the men that fell into it, devouring them, leaving their skin floating in the substance like it was an insubstantial molt.
The Female is constantly followed by The Biker, a mysterious character, probably another invader creature responsible for her, a supervisor let’s say. Some scenes in the film are quite ruthless but they give the sense of how The Female is far from comprehending humanity and sentiment of any sort because she is – inhuman -.
Some small incidents, however, scratch her surface and she starts getting perplexed and curious at the same time. i won’t spoiler too much for you but the Female will experiment human things alone and with the help of a friendly human that found her in confusion and gave her shelter. The Female, now, unable to hurt anyone else and completely disoriented, assailed by feelings she can’t explain and sensations she can’t control, escapes in the Wild where eventually she becomes the prey of the Bad Man.
I don’t know how to define this film, but I would say I felt like I was reading a very cruel poem. The final twist really is unsettling, ferocious and violent, when you take off your mask, when you open yourself up, when you get uncovered you never know how will people react, you never know if people will understand you, when they see you for what you actually are. And you too won’t probably be able to understand what lies under your own skin.
Again not only what is shown on screen is lunatic and dark, without such a great score from Mica Levi the film would not be such a nightmarish product. Lonely Void is the main theme of the film, present every time someone is brought inside the Dark and lead to the total oblivion.
Under the Skin is officially in the list of my favorite films of 2014, there is so much to debate on and I’m sorry I did not cover it all but as usual I’m very open to discuss with you. I see this film also a sort of metaphor, a tale on growing up, love and self discovery.
Scarlett Johansson’s vampiric role is not easy to forget. The film is shot in Scotland where local English sounds like a foreign language and The Female speaks a polished English that sounds foreigner in that environment and further accentuates her different provenience. Many of the scenes were shot with hidden cameras and real people from the streets were approached by Scarlett Johansson which in a way was a real alien. Hollywood massive star in disguise, among all locals.
I won’t consider this film a real horror film per se but the dread is yet very present, more on a subconscious level but it works perfectly, in a way it literally crawls under your skin.