One of the year’s newest and boldest films, Under the Skin, is out today. Starring Scarlett Johansson, this new film is definitely not your average run of the mill cinema presentation. In fact, I would have to say that this film is one of the most interesting and, dare I say, strangest films I’ve seen in a long time. Inspired by a book of the same name, director and writer, Jonathan Glazer follows up his previous films Birth and Sexy Beast by reimagining 1970s science fiction drama. It isn’t every day you see a film like this.
Try to imagine a seductive and alluring but beautiful woman roaming the hills of Scotland luring men into her van, leading them to her home, and having her way with them. Now imagine that woman is Scarlett Johansson. I know, right? Not so bad. Now here’s the twist: Imagine that this woman is actually an alien wearing the skin of a woman she found. While seducing these lonely and forgotten men she’s actually leading them to her lair to store their bodies and harvest their organs. Changes your idea a little bit, doesn’t it? While there are definite moments of horror to this film, I can’t solemnly say it’s a horror film. In reality, it’s an observation piece and thought provoking. As you watch Johansson’s character change from a seemingly cold-hearted hunter to an almost timid and curious woman, you’ll witness her curiosity for the human race. The transformation is almost tangible as she goes from being the hunter to the hunted in the very end, creating distance to the humanity she grew so close to.
Johannson’s performance is haunting in the truest sense of the word. Her character’s disturbing mission and continued pursuit of young naïve men makes her almost evil. However, the actress is able to withhold a somewhat sincere and mesmerizing timidness to her. She does an excellent job of presenting a character of unknown insecurity and doubt while maintaining a constant appeal to her persona. It should be said that this film is probably not for everyone and the critique that you either love it or hate it certainly carries over in this circumstance. Still, it remains that this film is unique. An overall surrounding sense of anticipation continues throughout the film. To me, this was the fortifying attribute for each scene. The majority of the film is silence, which sets a strange mood. When there is music or dialogue, it slowly creeps up on you causing your heart to skip waiting to see what happens. This atmosphere is only heightened by the somber setting of Scotland. Constantly being cold, wet, and foggy makes it feel like something bad is going to happen. I think I caught a cold just watching this film.
Let’s just say Under the Skin is different. It obviously leans more to the artsy side of the spectrum. Ultimately, it’s not going to be for everyone, but in my opinion it’s not going to be a waste of your time to watch either. It stands to be an exciting opportunity to question everyone’s humanity and form a deeper understanding of things that are different and lonely. Give it a try, you might like it.
I give Under the Skin 4 “slices of cake” out of 5.
by Jason Burleson