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Film Review: Under the Skin (2013)

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A mysterious seductress preys upon the population of Scotland.


A unique experience, new film “Under the Skin” is one movie that fits comfortably in the classification of “dreamlike”. Its ambiguous premise is what also makes it a compelling film to watch, one that centers lovely actress Scarlett Johansson at its core. Scarlett plays the role of a nameless character who spends most of the film seeking out men to seduce and lure to her mystery lair. Like Julia from the movie Hellraiser, they are lured for a purpose that is undisclosed. A dark room with a black mirror-like surface entraps her suitors as it turns into a liquid substance that keeps the bodies in stasis. These enigmatic sessions repeat themselves with each new suitor while leaving our seductress unharmed and in control.


It is suspected early on that she is perhaps some sort of non-human entity but who, why, and what are what stays disclosed till the final act. Without giving too much away, you need to stick around for the whole experience to play out so that you can absorb some of the great special fx work here.


Scarlett Johansson sticks to her performance exuding a cold demeanor and a personality that manages to stay unaffected as she continues her nightly routine. As if turning on a switch she breaks into seductress mode quite easily to lure her selection of men. All the while we get the sense that she is still investigating her host body during the process which to the benefit of Scarlett fans includes a few full body nude shots. I would also guess that the role required her to downplay her usual model-like appearance by putting on a few extra pounds, though with that said, she still remains a stunning sight to behold.


The film is directed by Jonathan Glazer who has done some great work over the years. Previous films like “Birth” and “Sexy Beast” have already earned themselves a place in cult status. “Under the Skin” will easily make that category “even” as a new release. Its opener segement and overall bleakness at times seems intentionally influenced by directors like Kubrick while also paying a nod or 2 to a number of noted cult directors. The movie does follow a tone that could be compared to films like “Melancholia” which in itself is very Lars von Trier inspired. “Under the Skin” is a science fiction film that plays like a drama while not entirely being either.


I’ve heard the film already referred to as brilliance. As a fan of enigmatic presentations I would have to agree that the mix between acting, cinematography and scoring is a compelling package worthy of film accolades. The premise and story provides a refreshing but mysterious platform that fits Scarlett Johansson’s acting skills like a glove. The object here seems to be to engage the audience from an alien point of view. As our character makes her way thru life fulfilling an objective and collecting what she needs, she also begins to have some affinity with it that counteracts her objective. By the 3rd act, she is beginning to recognize the interesting aspects of humanity while still having to face its ugliness.


“Under the Skin” is a film that is able to accomplish alot without really saying much. The score and soundtrack to the film acts almost as a 2nd character in itself really filling the gaps with drones and scoring compositions that contribute more to the film than as just backing tracks. Music is provided by Mica Levi who really accents the vision of the director by capturing a masterful combination of sounds and tones.


Under the Skin” is a dark dream that delivers on all account. Jonathan Glazer hits his mark with remarkable vision.

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