Under the Skin (2013)

by The Media Diorama

Under The Skin exasperates through contemporary concepts and otherworldly perspectives. This. This is what film is all about. Blockbusters have their purpose as mindless delectable entertainment, but the artistic interpretation is what truly inspires. It’s what makes the mechanisms within my cranium tick.

The synergistic motion of an aspirational endeavour. Taking the medium of film and transforming a sparse story into an elaborate existential realisation on humanity. Minimalistic paradise. Under The Skin doesn’t just crawl, if you pardon the double entendre, under your skin for the sake of ambiguous pleasure. It observes. It contemplates. But most importantly, it haunts. An otherworldly entity takes the form of a woman who preys on unsuspecting men in the urban streets and rural highlands of Scotland.

Glazer presents a thematic shroud of allurement, luring even the most specialised audiences into a nightmarish vision. Granted, this film is exceedingly inaccessible due to its unembellished and occasionally pretentious shell. But I ask of you, I implore you, to remove that shell and dig deeper.

This is a study of humanity through the perspective of an outsider. A foreigner. One who is yet to confront such behaviour. A malleable blank canvas painting its own emotive responses based on the external factors it becomes susceptible to. The tenacity of the human spirit through acts of courage, by surveying a surfer attempting to save a drowning family. The fragility of innocence, as “the woman” interrogates a lonely disfigured man yearning to be touched but frightened of society’s outlook on him. The roaring rage of violent behaviour, when a small cluster of hooligans attempt to damage and steal her transportation. She consumes the entire range of humanity’s emotive capacity in such a short space of time, that the entity with her begins to question its own virtues. Staring into a mirror. Into its soul. The lust for benevolence.

Glazer, through his clinical and sporadic dialogue, creates a study on the human spirit. Experiencing the ferocity and lustrous qualities that man take for granted. Love. Loss. Life. Through topographic shots that breathe in the Scottish highlands, Glazer hones in on the tranquility and loneliness of this woman. A spectator with her exuberant pink coat, as if purposefully noticeable against a backdrop of normality.

The casting of Johansson complements this representation even further. An actress with such star quality, being positioned in an environment out of context. Her simplistic yet dedicated acting was more than perfect. The fact Glazer used non-actors, hidden cameras and had Johansson walk the bleak streets of Glasgow without any civilian noticing her, enhanced the authenticity and naturalism of her “out of place” character.

Only to then explore an almost reverse rape culture, as she willingly lures men into an ominous void without the brutality and cruelty that would occur if the gender roles were reversed. This is explicitly shown during the conclusive act where the role reversal cements Glazer’s objective in extending humanity’s infectious spirit. The more the extraterrestrial becomes human, the greater her acknowledgement for sexualised weakness is. And it’s utterly enthralling, yet harrowing. Whilst Faber’s original novel is far more narrow-minded and opaque, Glazer breaks the boundaries and delivers a hugely gratifying ambiguous piece of cinema.

His ornate artistic sight, in particular, the plethora of ominous imagery and environmental shots, resulted in each scene being meticulously constructed to convey a theme or idea. Levi’s score only furthering the sci-fi elements that encapsulate the world that is being portrayed, almost viewing Scotland as an alternate dimension in itself. Every aspect technically will leave you breathless, entrancing you into a state of hypnosis. And it is with this contemporaneous approach that Glazer takes hold. Commanding every detailed scene with his unadorned direction. Honestly, it’s stunning.

Under The Skin is more than just a woman driving around Scotland in a van. Under The Skin is more than just a woman luring men into dilapidated houses. Under The Skin is art. It’s what film is all about. That claustrophobic restriction of endless possibilities. The lack of literary substance may deter viewers, but let the imagery penetrate your flesh. Let the dimensional aura envelope you in a thematic blanket. Let Glazer guide you through an experience like no other.