Under The Skin
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson.
Plot: A mysterious woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. Events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery.
The fact is that The Female is a killer, we just don’t really understand how. All we know is that she leads people into a baron space with a reflective floor in order to engulf her victims in a liquid-like substance as they long to touch her body. These scenes are incredibly artistic and really well photographed, and they provide such an incredible floor for Johansson to truly use her talents to offer a much more sinister take on her character than in the vast majority of earlier scenes where she is a much more alluring van driver cruising the streets of Scotland’s second city.
One technique used to drive the story is the expectation of the audience. All of the performances are so naturalistic that it seems just as possible for the actors to be real passers by as it does for them to be performers destined to be ‘taken’ by Johansson’s character. This is obviously a conscious move on behalf of the director who places Johansson in a shopping centre at the very beginning of the movie, seemingly inviting the public to look directly into the camera, making the picture seem more like a documentary. This voyeurism continues throughout the picture as The Woman’s encounters become seemingly more random, with her character evolving over this process into a more empathetic person of whom we can empathise with as an audience. Over this period, it seems as if her character is discovering herself, with a particularly poignant moment occurring when The Woman sees herself in the mirror after one of her abductions. A prolonged stare is put across as a questioning of morality as well as self discovery, as if The Woman is literally (or figuratively) seeing herself for the first time. This scene changes the stance of the audience to become in support of The Woman, flipping the meaning of the narrative on its head and meaning that a new “motorcyclist” character can become a central point of intrigue heading into the final act. Is this character one of “the people” that Johansson’s character is? Perhaps. But, the vulnerability of The Woman becomes more and more evident as time passes, with the actions of the motorcyclist becoming more violent to juxtapose that, and that’s key to the change in the movie’s tone. This story telling device continues the tension of the earlier acts in the picture, making sensational use of the fantastic score to an even greater degree.
In conclusion, Under The Skin is a fantastic piece of cinema that has seemed to gain more attention for Scarlett Johansson’s on-screen nudity than its incredibly artistic and well put together story. Frame for frame, this picture is art; there is barely any dialogue in the majority of the picture, yet it’s enticing if not entirely transfixing.Under The Skin is a must-watch film, and one that I highly recommend to cinema-lovers in particular.