MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

Under The Skin. One of my most anticipated movies this year, a huge fan of the soundtrack from Mica Levi (Micachu), Kubrick-ish and with an amazing trailer. This movie was ready to blow my mind and I was ready to decipher the whole thing and make an analyzed review. I saw it last summer and now after many rewatches, it’s time to tell what I thought of the movie.

It’s a very strange movie, but a very good one. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who takes the shape of a female hitchhiker and drives through Scotland and seduces various men to harvest their skin. The trailer was dark and seemed full of suspense. The critics had made bold comparisons with Stanley Kubrick, which in itself is a massive compliment. My opinion…. it doesn’t even come near it.

In what is turning out to be a strong year for movies, Under The Skin is another interesting independent movie, but it is definitely not for everyone. A science fiction film with almost no science fiction and almost no horror, this will require viewers to be patient and even then their patience may not be rewarded. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film though. Scarlett Johansson, although she doesn’t have that much to do, gives a strong performance and is hypnotic throughout. The endlessly haunting imagery, almost all the shots from the beautifully composed landscape shots to the surreal abyss sequences are powerful and fascinating. The story does have a message, but gets lost within the excessive imagery.

THE ANALYSIS:

It’s about an Alien who comes to earth to study human beings in some capacity. We do not sympathize with the alien at first, because it is cold, calculating, and predatory. It approaches us as a human would an ant – which is very clearly demonstrated early in the film’s imagery. This alien stalks the streets of Scotland in search of “Victims”, luring them with sexuality into a den devoid of light. The victims sink into a black pool, only to be stripped of their insides and leaving only the skin behind. At first, the male victims are a bit scummy; you’re run of the mill sleaze bag who just can’t wait to shove himself into the first woman he comes across. While we may not sympathize with them, we still identify the alien as evil. So what are we left with? Is everything in this film antagonistic? A confusing and disturbing scene on a beach forces us to take a further step back from the situation, and upon realizing how truly dire and horrible the situation really is, the average person would simply emotionally disconnect entirely from the experience at that point.

However, that’s the beginning of the film. My genuine feeling is that these men are not so much the victims of murder or cruelty, but unwilling participants of a strange type of assimilation. The alien was learning about humanity by absorbing them. Later in the film, when encountering a new type of victim, something changes. Suddenly, the cold face of the alien becomes strangely human. She starts to feel emotions. It is no longer a dead, unblinking stare, but one of worry, sadness, and vulnerability.

Eventually at the third act they reveal the true message of the movie. The movie tries to tell us how we as humans perceive beauty. We often attack it as physical thing that most of the time we forget the person… “Under the Skin”. When we truly discover a person, most of the time it turns us off and deny to be any near that person for any other matter. As example; the logger at the end of the movie. He notices that she is beautiful and decides to rape her, but when he finally sees her for what she truly is, he decides to burn her alive.

It’s a beautiful message indeed, but the thing is for me it felt too little. I was only truly affected by the stark complexity of its final third. However, I would have not gotten there if it weren’t for the entire first part of the film. This movie takes some genuine emotional audience participation, which for your average film is actually quite a lot to ask. It can be draining, it requires us to think, to empathize, and to allow ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable.

With that, be patient with people who hated the movie. It demands more of an investment than most are willing to give when watching a film. For most people, movies are supposed to be a safe escape from the stresses of everyday life. Under the Skin, unfortunately, exposes these stresses with naked frivolity, with a pacing that is pensive at best.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, but the main reason I’m going to give this movie a high rating is because of the amazing soundtrack of Mica Levi. It is the best soundtrack I’ve heard in years and a treat for every writer/filmmaker/composer out there. Another plus is for the amazing and surreal Cinematography, the scenes shot in crisp black and crisp white backgrounds are spectacular, and stay in your mind for a while.

Under The Skin gets an 8.6/10

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Written by Dani

Gallego/Español 🇪🇸 | Writer & Director for Film | Editor in Chief of http://Shoton35.com | Supporter of Celta de Vigo | Fan of DC Comics & Vertigo

6 comments

  1. i really liked your approach but i think i ‘ll pass… i didn’t like the movie and even your brilliant comments weren’t able to change my mind.

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  2. Helo Dan! Firstly thanks for ‘enemy’ analysis and this one too…..but I saw ‘under the skin’ as a bit different…..In the book,the aliens have actually setup a ‘fat farm’ where they keep captive humans,fatten them and then send their insides back to their planet through some sort of portal…..I don’t think they are here to study us, we are just a source of some material they require…..Unfortunately the movie goes astray visually in that aspect….I think it is only Scarlett’s character that starts to study humans and hence starts going rogue….She starts ‘humanising’ emotionally but realizes it cannot be physically possible etc….Although I do agree with most of what you said about looking under the skin and how we perceive beauty….Thanks again!

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  3. I agree with you! Somehow the score really .. Interesting. But not to mention the aftereffect after watching this film. The music keep playing in my head and the scene where the man get suck and gone in the black pool. even though its a bit weird and cool at the same time, i like it. Only one thing from the film that disturb me most. The biker. I’ve read some review about this character but seemed too off for me. What do you think?

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    1. Thank you for reading! As for the biker I think he is there simply to control her if she is doing the job right and that she is not becoming to close with the humans, because as you notice they don’t give that much about us. That’s why he inspects her throughout the middle of the movie. You can interprer that in many crazy ways, I even heard someone say that they are there to minimilize the population, because humans are out of control. I know its silly, but hey…still possible 😛

      PS. there has been some time that since I’ve seen the movie, so i could not be making a lot of sense right now hahaha but that’s what I remember of it.

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  4. Hi Dan,
    First of all I should thank you for ‘enemy’ analysis. but for this movie it is the worst one I ever seen
    and your comment make me hate it more 😀 because I didn’t expect that she is alien at all .

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