Scarlett Johansson has been making a lot of great movies lately, and having just seen Captain America: The Winter Solider, I’ve recently had the realization that she’s pretty awesome. So when I saw the trailer for this bizarre movie by ‘Birth’ director Jonathon Glazer, and saw some positive reviews I had to check it out.
A young woman (Scarlett Johansson) from another world roams the Scottish streets seducing men and taking them home with her. However, she isn’t what they think they are, and when they end up alone with her things take a dark turn. However, there may be more to her than what we do or don’t see initially.
‘Under the Skin’ is a movie that many people will hate. I’ll say that right off the bat. It’s a movie that is not ever going to be commercially accepted in the mainstream, despite having Scarlett Johansson’s name on it. As soon as it begins we realize that it is going to be a very visual film, more on the arts side of film making. We are exposed to a long opening visual puzzle of sorts, seeing images that twist and turn and become different things without ever changing. That is perhaps a description of the film and it’s characters themselves. The film, and our (anti?)heroine become something different without ever changing.
Immediately, the visuals and the strange, repetitive music get ‘under our skin.’ The film has a really creepy and menacing undercurrent. It is never out to terrify the viewer, but it is definitely a little creepy. Scarlett Johansson puts forward a menacing performance herself, and makes one hell of an alien. Her normal expression is one that is seemingly blank and devoid of life and emotion. So when she randomly begins speaking in a plain British accent, smiling and flirting, it seems in such contrast to what we see for the majority of the film. But unfortunately for them, the men she seduces don’t see this as well.
Speaking of the accents, the Scottish surroundings provide a bleak and brilliant backdrop for such a story. The people can barely be understood, they don’t look flashy or attracting and the weather is gray and rainy. As our heroine roams around, we can feel a real sense of alienation (funny since she’s an alien, huh? Hmm. I might be on to something there). She doesn’t fit in, and I couldn’t tell if she was ok with that or not. As the film goes on it becomes less and less clear, but her situation has something to say about social topics from alienation, sexism, loneliness, meaning and all sorts of other stuff. Whether it knows it or not. What exactly it’s trying to say is nearly indecipherable. But you get bits and pieces and that’s part of what makes the film interesting.
The film is pretty sexy at times too. One of the most effective pieces of movie making are the incredibly weird scenes when our alien lady is seducing men, and we get a strange view of the action where Glazer works the camera in such a way that it feels like we’re being seduced. So at least for men like myself, these scenes were all the more effective, and in a sense, all the more disturbing. Then there are also the scenes where she is experiencing other aspects of life. The direction liked to give us her perspective in these moments, which is also pretty effective.
All in all, Under The Skin did exactly what the name suggests. It creeped me out and it intrigued me throughout. I won’t claim to understand it completely, but it certainly gave me enough that I’ve formed a strong opinion (which I won’t share. I’ll let you form your own). A clue is in the word alien. Scarlett Johansson is having a Matthew McConaughey like year, and this is just another great film on the list. While the movie will certainly be polarizing, I found it to be a great and artistic movie that sucks you in for it’s entire run time.