Famed for his out-of-the-box, figurative filmmaking, director Jonathan Glazer has created another impressive film straight from symbolic heaven with Under the Skin. Part sci-fi, part horror, you would be excused for thinking this type of film has already been done ten times over, but the more involved in the plot you become do you realise that this film doesn’t really fall in any category, and that is essentially what makes it fascinating to watch.
Scarlett Johansson stars as a mysterious creature from an unknown place that’s sole purpose seems to involve luring men into an abandoned building where she proceeds to sleep with them (or so one can assume) and then they disappear, never to be seen or heard from again. Assisting her in this endeavour is a motorcycle riding male (Jeremy McWilliams) who may or may not have a connection to the femme fatale. After countless encounters with nameless men, one particular occurrence gives pause to Johansson’s character, making her question her existence in this world and her increasing humanity for those that inhabit it.
This is definitely an ‘art’ film, and no that should not deter the everyday film buff for seeing this flick. It just means that Glazer has left a lot up to interpretation for the viewer, and that’s what makes Under the Skin so appealing. Its depiction of gender roles and the way we understand humanity in particular were completely compelling, and while this may not appeal to most of you, I know some folks out there will enjoy seeing a movie that makes you think about the bigger picture. Be warned though, if you are a fan of solid answers and definitive endings this movie isn’t for you, like art every viewer will have a particular way of watching this movie and as a result a different opinion. But the greatest thing about that is there is no right or wrong, just many forms of understanding.
You would have to be living under a rock to not know that Johansson is consistently topping ‘sexiest woman alive’ lists, but her turn as the enigmatic siren is so far from glamourous (read: real) that you have to look twice to even make sure it’s her. Presenting herself in all her flawed glory, viewers get to see a warts and all Johansson performance, one that is so different from any we have seen before. Barely registering any sort of facial expression is kind of the point here, and Johansson nails it each and every time that I actually have a real concern she is in fact a cyborg/alien/clone living here under false pretences. But I digress, Johansson is far from being just another pretty face in the Hollywood scene, and her latest role looks to be a defining one in her career.
Under the Skin is unlike any movie I have seen before. Yes the old ‘sexy alien poses as a human to sleep with our men and kill them’ has been done more times than you can say tired plot, but here Glazer uses this narrative device as a commentary on deeper issues in today’s world. This might be a little heavy for someone that is just looking for a chilled out DVD session on a Friday night, but is definitely worth a look at some point this year.