Under The Skin
Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin is the first film I’ve seen this year that was out there on the abstract scale. One member of the audience labeled the film as “European”. I was confused as to why he referred to it as so, because shortly after he said “that has to be European”. Well what to summarize what he ranted about while the credits rolled through, was that Under The Skin is like all the other “European” films, they hardly get played in America because they are all the same; abstract and slowly brings you to a stupid ending and makes you wonder who else is like the main character, because they never even tell you.
A nameless woman (Scarlett Johansson) rides around in a white van preying on innocent men that don’t have families or women in their life. She uses charm and her looks to get them to go for a ride and soothes her way into bringing them back to her place. Once the men enter the house, we do not see from them again, but to explain what happens will take away from the overall experience of the film. As she continues this alienated way of life she encounters a man that changes the way she does things that prompts the mysterious biker to become involved.
Well in regards to what I initially said, I can agree to an extent that the angered audience member is right that a lot of films follow the structure of letting a lot of things remain ambiguous. The comment that all European films are like this though is obviously ignorance. To it’s disadvantage Under the Skin could have slightly explained what certain things were , i.e the black quicksand like water that Scarlet J, victims became engulfed by. It was extremely interesting accompanied by some mesmerizing visuals but I believe if the director could have some how shown us representation as to what all that was even about could have provided more power behind the sequences. It was all left to interpretation almost to the point where you could literally make up anything; Which can be a positive thing for some, and negative for others. Interestingly enough there was some people in the audience that laughed at the things happening because it was “weird”, however halfway through the film everything fell silent when things became serious, a sequence in particular being the beach.
Scarlett Johansson had a role similar to Ryan Gosling in Drive but where Under The Skin failed for most the film was to give us some way to feel for our main character. It was left to simply bathe in her mysterious persona and watch her undress a few times. I can’t give much credit to Johansson her because she didn’t really have to do much. Oddly enough her role here is similar to her acclaimed role in Her, as Ty Burr suggest “In a way, the role is a continuation of her celebrated vocal performance in “Her.” There she played a computer program…Here she’s present in body but not in soul, at least initially.” The last twenty minutes of the film is where this was more sense of urgency in her character which made me feel worried as a result of her apparent vulnerability.
I can praise this interesting concept because I’ve never seen something like this before. From the opening of the film I was completely immersed in the film due to the unsettling score and visuals, but it died down as we watched similar accounts of this alien preying on Men. There was a lot of interesting unworldly abstract colour schemes accompanied by the Kubrick-esque like sounds in the background. In reference to the final climax, I was not as shocked as the directed surely intended for us to feel. Which is unfortunate because I was just starting to regain interest in the film.
Under The Skin won’t be a film that receives great praise from the average film goer besides the mention that “it’s different”. Due to it’s challenging and thought provoking concepts it will surely appeal to a group of people, and be analyzed through numerous interpretations. I’m hoping after another view, that I will enjoy it a little more. Unfortunately, I feel like the film proposed so many interesting concepts that could have been something incredible but it falls short.
My Rating: ★★★ / ★★★★★
Dir. Jonathan Glazer
IMDb 7.3/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 85%
Nominated British Independent Film Award, Best Director, Actress, Technical Achievement
“When was the last time you touched someone?”
For Further Reading: