Under The Skin Review
Daring but distant
If you know nothing about the film beyond the fact that ScarJo gets rather unabashedly naked in it then prepare to be surprised, and not necessarily in a good way.Discussing Under The Skin is nigh-on impossible without some level of spoilers, because the film itself does not cater for easy digestion or understanding, and instead remains distant and aloof for a great deal of the runtime. If you want a clean slate, give it a rental, but prepare yourself for something that you likely cannot prepare yourself for.A point-of-view piece about a group of aliens who have landed in Scotland, Under the Skin follows the unnamed female character played by Scarlett Johansson, who adopts a human ‘skin’ and proceeds to trawl the streets looking for unsuspecting men to take home for ‘processing’. Although seemingly devoid of any human weaknesses like fear or conscience, she eventually starts to question her ‘job’ and instead question what it might be like to actually live a human life.
Writer/Director Jonathan Glazer’s third feature – after his superb Ray Winstone / Ben Kingsley debut Sexy Beast and the less-well-received Nicole Kidman vehicle, Birth – is one of the most abstract low-budget features of late, following the likes of Monsters, Melancholia, Another Earth and, in particular, Upstream Colour in that it largely only uses its sci-fi elements as a backdrop for exploring other, more human concepts. Here Glazer manages to, quite convincingly, give us a look at the human condition as seen through the eyes of alien life.
Peppered with innovative ideas and stunning visuals, Under The Skin still remains disjointedly distant and unattainable.
To this end he drafts the help of Scarlett Johansson who puts in arguably her most daring performance as the black widow-like man-eater at the heart of it all, and delivers some exceptionally breathtaking visual imagery which, coupled with a haunting, intoxicating score, will likely prove arresting for even the most detached viewer. Unfortunately, whilst some of the imagery is striking – adopting the same indie variation on Malick-style cinematography as was seen in Upstream Colour – most of the film has been shot using hidden cameras and non-actors on the dirty, weather-beaten streets of Scotland, and the juxtaposition is jarring at best.
Despite some promise, and some intriguing elements, between the unavoidably but unpleasantly misanthropic narrative and the distant, out-of-reach, slow-burner approach to storytelling here, the end result is still a somewhat unsatisfactory attempt at low-budget, avant-garde experimentalism.
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