Under the Skin (2013) Directed by Jonathan Glazer. With Scarlett Johansson.
Don’t you just love those rare experiences, during which you become so engrossed in something, that you reach a state of virtual hypnosis!? Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin was one such example of a film that held my undivided attention from the first second to the last. Based on a novel of the same name by Michael Faber, it begins as a story about an alien seductress (Scarlett Johansson) in not-so-bonny-Scotland, using her sultry talents to prey upon randy men.
That description could easily lead you believe it’s a raunchy sex comedy, but believe me, it’s anything but. Johannson is mesmerising in the central role, somehow encapsulating an other-worldliness as she interacts with everyday life. To see the familiarity of our world from her perspective is oddly surreal. Her non-emotional responses to things that trigger intense emotion with us, remind us of the cold brutality of the universe, while similarly highlighting what it is that makes humankind so unique.
There isn’t a moment of Under the Skin that isn’t fascinating. It represents cinema at its absolute finest, defaulting to sound effects and visual symbols as its prime method of storytelling. What’s more, Mica Levi’s sinister, subtly haunting score creates depth-upon-depth in a film that is striking in everything it represents. The inspired casting of Scarlett Johannson, stalking the cold, grey Scottish locations is, in itself, an alien sight to behold – thickening the sense of an outsider in our midst.
There aren’t many films I’ll almost forget myself during, but it’s the closest I’ve felt to the childlike wonder of discovering something new and exciting, for many a year. Deep, darkly erotic and disturbing, Under the Skin is a rare and intelligent film that feels wholly original. Nightmarishly unforgettable. 5/5