Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer)

Posted: August 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

If there’s a point to “Under the Skin”, the film certainly doesn’t communicate it clearly.  Sure, I could take a shot in the dark and say the film is about 20th century mating rituals, or the shallowness of men, or the difficulty of females having to choose a mate from men who all seem to be perverted or damaged.  Whatever the filmmakers intended the film to say, they failed to make the film say it.  Instead, the audience is left with an artsy, sometimes visually interesting film that reads like a French New Wave version of “Species”, the 1995 sci-fi/horror film about an alien who takes the form of an attractive female in order to mate and breed more alien babies. 

The main character of the film, played by Scarlett Johansson, is an alien.  I only know this because of information I’ve read about the film previously.  The film itself never lets us know she is an alien, or a monster, or whatever.  Sure, we see her in her true form at one point, but it doesn’t exactly explain things.  Anyway, the film follows her as she attempts to pick up random men while driving around Scotland.  The film has a lot of shots of her driving around.  Sometimes she succeeds in picking up a man after ascertaining they are a loner with no family, after which she takes them some place which is pitch black but has a reflective floor.  She gets undressed and walks away and the men undress themselves and follow her until the floor swallows them up as if it became inky water.  Once under water, or whatever, they seem to die leaving their skin behind.  I think.  It’s really not quite clear.

Amidst all this, there’s a guy on a motorcycle who seems to be helping her, but has no lines, nor any shared scenes with Johansson’s character.

Look, this is a slow, artsy movie full of symbolism that may be trying to say something, or may simply be pretentious garbage designed for equally pretentious audiences and critics to read things into it that aren’t there so that they may feel superior to those of us who don’t find a meaning in the work.  I’m pretty sure this work has a meaning, it’s not just random surrealism like “Un Chien Andalou”, but the message is nowhere near communicated clearly.

This film has mostly gained notice because Johansson appears fully nude in it.  The nudity in the film is quick and shot under very dark lighting so that you can barely see anything.  That hasn’t stopped men with photoshop from taking hi-def screencaps and cleaning it up to see everything, but that’s neither hear nor there.  I guess I just feel that, when you see a film, the opportunity to see an attractive actress naked should be a bonus to a film, not the main draw to it.  If Miss Johansson hadn’t done full frontal in this film, I doubt anyone would care about this film outside of the pretentious film festival audiences who will claim the film is genius.  The film was booed at the Venice film festival, so not everyone is fooled.

There are some scenes that work on their own, such as when Johansson’s character picks up a man with a facial deformity.  There are many wonderful shots, though they are almost always held too long before the film cuts away from them.  Aside from these merits, however, the film is slow, repetitive, and fails at communicating its message. C-.



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