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Under the Skin: A Haunting and Sensory Blasting Experience

July 21, 2014

Under the Skin movie poster

Under the Skin is a mesmerizing film that captures Scotland’s dreary beauty while blasting us with the most sensory film of the year. I love that there is zero backstory or expository hand holding. It is a remarkably simple movie that still leaves many questions unanswered. It is a pure and unadulterated experience that could be vivisected or simply appreciated. My advice is to turn off the lights, turn up the volume and allow yourself to fully appreciate a spellbinding experience.

Under the Skin tells the story of Scarlett Johansson’s unnamed character driving around Scotland on the prowl for men/victims. She takes them back to uninhabited homes where they are doomed via black goop quicksand.  The scenes are slightly improvised and all lead to hyper stylized endings. As her journey progresses she seems to become more self-aware and curious. This doesn’t bode well for her because she is out of the protection of her motorcycle riding assistant/boss/owner.

The journey her character takes is a wonder of cinematic prowess and natural beauty.

under the skin beach

Little is said yet you understand what is going on. The director Jonathan Glazer had this to say about the film:

When you’re choosing to tell a story from an alien point of view, you’re really creating a rod for your own back, because you’re trying to make something feel truly alien. The experience needs to be inscrutable, unfathomable. Something you don’t recognise, that you feel but you don’t see. We didn’t want to make a film where that’s explained away somehow. It had to be outside our understanding.

Under the Skin is a truly alien film that is too easy to make complicated. Much like Tree of Life, Springbreakers and Upstream Color (Enemy is really confusing though) people add symbolism and theory where it isn’t needed. Under the Skin is a tragic journey of somebody experiencing earth for the first time.

Under the skin Adam Pearson

The film has become notorious for the Johansson nudity. However, it feels organic to the film and is part of the character’s self-awareness. As the film unfolds you understand why she is becoming more aware of her body. Her performance is a wonder to behold as she seems genuinely curious of her prey and the world around her. She must have trusted the director because in lesser hands this could have become an exploitative piece called Naked in Scotland.

Glazer made a wise decision to shoot the film in Scotland. When I visited Scotland it seemed like I could close my eyes, put my camera behind my back and still take a beautiful photo. The rainy and misty country provides perfect vistas to explore.

under the skin scarlett

Under the Skin does a great job of creating an alien world. The trust between Scarlett and the Glazer is evident and the movie works as a sensory blasting experience. It most certainly isn’t for the mainstream because of the vague subject material and lack of information. However, if you appreciate great looking films that take daring journeys Under the Skin is for you. Also, it makes you really want to ride a motorcycle through the windy Scottish coastal roads.

Under the skin motorcycle

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