Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, Adam Pearson
Director: Jonathan Glazer
“A mysterious young woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. However, events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery” (IMDB).
»Currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime«
What to Expect
Scarlett Johansson sits in a van
Scarlett Johansson drives around town in a van
A pool of naked men
Why You Should Watch It
The aesthetic of this film is very Neon Demon meets 2001. There is limited dialogue, long shots lasting several seconds or more, a dash of sci-fi, and artistic cinematography. The exposition is never handed to you, which forces you to pay closer attention to the pretty details. Although Under the Skin is an adaptation from Michel Faber’s novel by the same name, it’s a loose adaptation whose discrepancies take away many of the book’s answers, so the viewer is left to come up with their own interpretation of the film.
Rainy Day Flick (C)
At first glance I believed the dead woman Scarlett’s male counterpart fished out of some highway ditch was also ScarJo, and her body had been copied to make a skin for her character, the Female. Turns out it’s an entirely different actress (Mackay), so I guess the Female just needed some clothes to wear for the moment.
In the book, the Female lures men so their flesh can be harvested and eaten as a delicacy on her home planet. The movie takes an extremely artistic approach in depicting the harvesting process and throws in a delightful little jump scare that nearly gave me a heart attack. It was interesting how she only wanted adult males for her creepy-cool Pool of Death, but didn’t seem to have any idea of how to properly seduce them besides making sure they were alone and in her van. She was surprised that a man could just approach her in the club and she could instantly take him home; if the aliens knew anything about human behavior, that’s where Johansson would be posted up every night.
I read the Female’s interaction with the Deformed Man (Pearson) not just as a catalyst to her becoming more in touch with her emotions, but also defying her own kind. It seems that in letting the Deformed Man go, the Bad Man (McWilliams/male alien) wanted to punish the both of them. The Female running away with the bus guy was not just “a process of self-discovery,” but her being fearful of what would happen when she returned.
I love the way Glazer brings together opposites in this film. ScarJo is sexy and beautiful at the start of Under the Skin, but her actions dehumanize, and in turn, desexualize her. The audience sees the Female acting robotic and inhuman for so long that by the time she strips down and looks at her naked body, the viewer is no longer watching her as a voyeur but coldly examining through her own alien eyes. In turn, the Female preying on the men is, for the most part, not frightening. They hypnotically stare at her even after they’ve walked themselves into their prison, not registering that they’re sinking, or suddenly trapped. It’s only the brief scene showing what happens to the men in the pool that’s scary. But when the Female is preyed upon by a man, it’s violent, disturbing, and emotional. Both characters are predators, but their methods are polar opposites.