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Under the skin

under-the-skin.27563

Released in 2013
Directed by Johnathan Glazer

TL:DR – A creepy, subtle vision of a creature not from this planet experiencing and figuring out humanity all told from it’s own perspective. There’s not a lot of dialogue because this creature is observing, contemplating. One of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. 10/10

***REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***

We always see movies with narratives from the perspective of humans. Of course, that makes sense when the ones who watch films are pretty much exclusively humans, but we rarely see a story from the vantage point of an alien, one that is so vastly different from our own species.
And no, movies with talking animals do not count. The fact that they can talk at all, even just to each other while using the english language makes them human-like, especially in our own minds.
At the start of this film, we see what appears to be space craft approaching earth while we hear various sounds until we realize that these sounds are the voice of a creature that is attempting to annunciate “earthly-words.” A variety of languages can be heard and the sounds eventually settle on English, with a Scottish accent.
What follows is probably one of the creepiest, most bizarre visual narratives I have seen in a film since “Eraserhead.” This alien(since we never get a name, I will now refer to her as “ScarJo” from here on out) witnesses and dissects a variety of human nature and culture from casual conversations to dancing at clubs to eating food. And she reacts exactly how one would expect her to; She is very weirded out, confused, and attempts to connect the dots of our humanity in a way that can make sense to her own understanding. It’s a really interesting way to make a film, and it may not be for everyone.
The best part about this style, is that the film does a wonderful job of showing rather than telling, mainly because there’s not a lot of dialogue, rather there is internal monologue which we are not privy to, we merely see her observing, watching the gears turn and then we wonder “What is she thinking?”

So she’s here on a mission of course, one that we do not get a taste of right away. She finds the body of a similar looking girl as herself on the side of the road and takes her clothes. Yes, we do get to see ScarJo naked, but it’s not in a flattering way at all. It’s very clinical, almost grotesque. But hey, I guess some people will take what they can get. We see a mysterious figure on a motorcycle who appears to be telling her what to do, but there is little dialogue or exchange between the two of them.
She then drives around in a massive truck, talking to random men on the street, asking for directions and making small talk. Eventually, she offers one a ride, flirts with him and then go back to “her place”, a decrepit old apartment building where upon entering the room, which is a pitch black to infinity space that I have NO idea how the accomplished, ScarJo begins to casually remove her clothes.

Under-the-Skin-15

The men eagerly follow, practically tripping over themselves to remove their own clothing. An eerie, high pitched strings-score plays throughout this, overcoming us with a sense of dread.
As they follow her they begin to sink in to the floor and eventually are submerged in the blackness.

Oh. I see what this movie is about.

 This happens several more times, she seduces men, creepy music plays and they willingly follow her  into this inky black pit, and eventually we see what lies within this black mass. A man is dragged under and appears to be paralyzed except for some basic head and eye movement. He sees another man in the distance, tries to call out to him and then – well, you just need to watch it.
She appears to be on this planet collecting specimens, or is quite possibly a huntress, it’s never made completely clear. What we do know is that we are now creeped the fuck out.
There’s a lot of gorgeous cinematography of the Scottish country side, beautiful static shots and stunning panoramas while she contemplates her next move. In one of the most disturbing parts of the film she sees a couple struggle with a heavy rising tide in the ocean and witnesses their death. A man tries to rescue them but emerges from the water exhausted, lying on the beach. ScarJo then walks right up to him past the small child left behind by the couple and bludgeons him to death with a rock. Like she was getting a cup of coffee, so casually.
Later she meets a man who is very disfigured. He is very kind to her and when he is lured to her “house” she appears to feel bad for him and lets him go, naked in to the country side. Somewhere else, the mysterious man on the motorcycle starts up his engine.
It seems like she is now on the run, not seducing anyone else and moving around the country side.
She can’t seem to make it on her own, getting soaking wet in weather, and unable to find food. A kind man helps her with these things and when she grows more comfortable with him, things start to change; As they go in to his place, the creepy strings music plays, she crawls in to bed with him and after a few moments(presumably as he penetrates her) she freaks out and runs away.

This is a complex, thought provoking film, questioning gender, sexuality and what we define as a narrative. The reveal of the true form of ScarJo is truly strange and the ending seems to be showing what these aliens look at as “The circle of life.” This film really needs to be seen to be believed.

10/10

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This entry was posted on January 10, 2016 by in Film Review and tagged , , , , .
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