Under the Skin (2013) Review

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RATING: 4/5

SPOILERS

Directed by Jonathan Glazer, “Under the Skin” is about an alien woman who preys on men for her own mysterious means.

This sure was a trip. A weird, bizarre, and unsettling one at that. This is a very intriguing and really interesting movie to sit through all the way. I’ll try my best to tackle it.

The film at the same time has characters and doesn’t have characters. What I’m saying is that none of the people in the movie have names or have depth to them. The film doesn’t go into the backstories of the alien woman, played by Scarlett Johansson, or her motorcyclist companion. This movie basically showcases the journey of how the woman learns of human behavior on Earth, while the motorcyclist is there cleaning up her mess and making sure the woman is doing her job.

I do find it interesting to learn that the random men Scarlett picks up our ordinary men. Who had no idea there were being filmed. These scenes add a sense of realism to the film which is nice. Albeit it can hard to listen on the accents the men are delivering. With a movie that has little dialogue, the performances are really good. Scarlett does great as a sexy, alien seductress.

The cinematography is really good. As there are quite of bit of wide shots to get some gorgeous Scotland scenery. There are a number of long shots to really get absorbed in the world.

The music is really good at delivering a haunting and foreboding mood. This works very well in the scenes when Scarlett is preying on the men’s deep desires and when she goes in for the “kill.” As I said, the film is pretty unsettling and can be uncomfortable to watch at certain moments. In particular the scene with the baby on the beach. The music creates a creepy and dream-like vibe which definitely works. The reverse change in music toward Scarlett’s aggressor toward the end is a good choice as well.

This is a film that uses mainly practical effects and only uses CGI when it needs to, which I respect. The only notable times it is used is when Scarlett takes the men into the black liquid abyss and towards the end when her true alien form is revealed.

Even though Scarlett doesn’t have depth to her, the journey she goes through from beginning to end is nicely done. It is very interesting to see her become a being who feels trapped in doing one thing, then going out of her way to realize the error of her ways and try to live life as a human.

The movie is chocked full of symbolism and themes that can be interpreted in any way, shape, or form. But the most prominent one that this film tackled was beauty and how people take it. “Beauty” can be interpreted by a number of different ways and it is Scarlett’s job in the movie to tackle those many interpretations. A person can look at a woman from the outside based on her looks or a man can look at whats inside. The film showcases Scarlett looking at her surroundings seeing how women compose themselves. It is then she uses this as a way to study how men will approach a beautiful woman. Will a man be selfish and take advantage of the looks alone or will a man not care about those things and only want to see the true self? It can truly be saddening for a man to see a woman’s true self and not want to care for her ever again.

The scene with the disfigured man shows that this woman is doing wrong for displaying her looks to men. It is to show that looks are not the only thing a man is looking for when approaching a woman. No pun intended, but it is what “Under the Skin” or underneath a person, that matters most.

The film is far from perfect. I do feel it can be very vague of not explaining of what’s happening. Now I do love the fact of looking at the movie from different interpretations and this is surely a re-watchable flick. But I do wish there was at least one scene to show a bit of background info to add some context of what is happening. I kind of understand that Scarlett is collecting men and using their blood as some type of food source or something for something. But a little explanation of “why” would be nice.

The scenes that have no dialogue are for most part handled great, but it struck it odd note when Scarlett meets one man who is nice to her. She doesn’t utter a single word at all to the man and he is just going along with it. To the point where they are about to have sex.

Going back to music, nice touch with the film including an MF Doom promo poster. Points for that.

A film that is very heavy in its surrealism and the themes it presents, thus warranting many viewings afterwards. The performances are great, cinematography is really good, music is perfect at emulating an unnerving tone, and it is just a bizarre/weird film that one needs to watch now.