Under The Skin is one of those films that just won’t be for everyone. The Art House crowd will likely find some beautiful cinematography, be fascinated by the unsettling and unique imagery, and not be put off by the sparse dialogue. The general movie-going masses will surely be somewhat confused or at least bored with the non-Hollywood pacing and the need ot connect some dots. There is, however, definitely a percentage of the male audience that will love Scarlett Johansson minus her clothes.
Me? I love movies like this. I like the unusual, often in the science fiction genre. And Under The Skin is indeed not like most films. The story isn’t really new, but the style in which it is told and shot most certainly is.
A mysterious woman travels the streets in a city in Scotland seducing lonely men. As events unfold, she begins a journey of self-discovery that leads ot uncharted territory for her.
The film opens looking through a small circular opening of light. Eventually, in a very Kubrickian time span, we see a featureless room and a woman dressing next to a second, motionless nude woman laying at her feet. No words are spoken, but the image implies all it needs to about the identity of this woman.
Scarlett Johansson does an awful lot with very little words. She seems cool, and disconnected, yet over time, she conveys a sense of curiosity, a need to understand. Essentially, she is from another world. She needs sustenance, and that comes in the form of human males. There is a surreal quality about much of this film, and when she takes a man to the run-down house in which she resides (though you never really know if she ever needs sleep), they follow her as if entranced to a featureless room, in fact, devoid of anything but blackness, and what happens next is some of the most unique and unsettling, yet strangely beautiful imagery I think I’ve ever seen on film. And for me, that’s saying something.
There’s a helper of sorts, a motorcycle-riding Renfield to Johansson’s nameless traveler. We never get any info about him, he just appears on occasion to do something menial, whatever. But it’s clear that he is her servant and/or care-taker of sorts.
As I mentioned before, there are shots that stretch time, long, slow quiet shots that feel very much like Kubrick. You can sense the short attention span members of the audience doze off. Fine, better for the rest of us. But Under The Skin is the kind of film that creates a specific mood and feel. The atmospheric soundtrack by Mica Levi just adds to that. Are all Art House films good? Are they all pretentious and annoying? No, of course not, on either count. But again, this film won’t be for everyone. It’s more likely to be polarizing if anything. It’ll either speak to you or not. Won’t be anyone waffling opinions on this one.
I really liked Under The Skin. It’s a film that makes you think. It showed me things I haven’t seen in a film before. Directed by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth), and written by him and Walter Campbell, based on the book by Michel Faber, Under The Skin is a darkly fascinating and beautiful sci-fi experience. For some of us, anyway. Four kittenhands.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, already looking forward to seeing this again.