Thursday, April 24, 2014


Jonathan Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN is a unique take on telling a science fiction story. With its minimal dialogue, slow-but-steady pacing, zero exposition and ambiguous imagery, it can very much be considered an art film. Throw in a man-eating alien, and now you’ve got the horror film element just for good measure.
An alien in human form (Scarlett Johansson) journeys through Scotland picking up willing men who are never heard from again.

UNDER THE SKIN doesn’t have much by way of plot. The film basically consists of Johansson’s character (never referred to by name, but listed as Laura in the credits), driving around the city and countryside, picking up men, and luring them into her dwelling where they are disposed of. What makes it all work is the great atmosphere of mystery. Where Laura came from, what her intent is, or how she came to have a man in her employ assisting her, is all a big mystery. There is a lot alluded to and inferred here and there, and the audience is very much left to draw their own conclusions. Not everything is answered in full by the time those credits do roll around, and that works to the film’s advantage as it is guaranteed to hang with you long after you leave the theatre. The film is a haven for artistic debate.
Director Jonathan Glazer keeps the pacing slow but steady, and by using some haunting music and beautiful photography builds an atmosphere thick and heavy with mystery. There isn’t a single scene without Laura and he makes excellent use of her every time. The ambiguity to the film works to its advantage greatly. The way the men are disposed of is done quietly; they sink into a black murk while following a naked Laura…which adds to the film’s mystery and intrigue. It raises a million questions and answers very few…and that’s OK.

Scarlett Johannson turns in a spooky and haunting performance. She is seductive, beautiful, creepy and scary all at once. She boldly shows her body off in ways she’s never done before, and since it’s tastefully and artfully done never feels excessive. Glazer apparently shot scenes of Laura picking up men guerilla-style, with Johannson driving around the city with a hidden camera on the dash as she tries to pick up men. The actress adapts to the changing situations very well, and makes the film work with her mind just as well as her body.
The finale comes about after some interesting twists and turns which involves Laura developing some compassion for her potential victims, along with discovering the things her body can do. UNDER THE SKIN feels like a lot of repetition is going on, but underneath there is a whole lot more. This is a true thinking-man’s sci-fi film; one that really does get under your skin.


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