A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
After witnessing the mesmerisingly bizarre vision that is Jonathan Glazer’s “Under The Skin”, there is no doubt that surrealist cinema is alive and well today. Hearing almost nothing about this mysterious sci-fi drama that was originally released last year in 2013, “Under The Skin” proved itself to be one of the most enchanting, confusing, affecting and thought-provoking films of the year thus far.
Set in Glasgow, Scotland, Scarlett Johansson plays an extraterrestrial seductress who prays upon gullible and vulnerable male civilians. The alien takes the form of Johansson, a beautiful, black-haired woman, and travels through the townships, country sides and regional areas in general, enticing numerous men with her looks, charm and inviting presence.
From the outset, “Under The Skin” screams unconventionality. With sounds, visuals and an overall introductory experience not too dissimilar to the climactic act of “A Space Odyssey”, “Under The Skin” generates a different sort of cinematic atmosphere.
The eeriness of the score, the stunningly unique camerawork and the limited dialogue all create an otherworldly aura that, in turn, can easily alienate an audience. It is unclear where the plot seems to progress at times, as it does not adhere to a typical Hollywood conventional structure; nor should it feel obliged to.
Ultimately, as distancing, confusing and disturbing surrealist cinema may appear, it all boils down to interpretation. How someone may interpret a film may be completely different to how another views it, and that is in many ways, the beauty of cinema in general.
“Under The Skin” would definitely be classified as a “work of art” in this case.
It can be classified as this for many reasons, primarily given that there are so many ways of looking at it. Some may love it and call it a masterpiece, whilst others may walk away being unsatisfied, bewildered and annoyed.
Furthermore, the superbly executed seduction sequences, the transformation scene, the scenes showing the alien’s captive victims and some of the landscape shots are also so visually appealing and alluring, they seem to literally be works of art.
There are a few landscape shots that could be mistaken for eloquently airbrushed paintings whilst some of the more surreal shots seem as though they’re straight out of a gallery.
Scarlett Johansson is superb as the alien temptress. 2013 was a big year for her; having prominent roles in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut “Don Jon” and Spike Jonze’s superb futuristic triumph “Her”. Her role in “Under The Skin” would be her most challenging and demanding from 2013; what she delivers is one of the most impressive performances of Johansson’s already impressive career and the year so far.
A strange point about “Under The Skin” is that the male subjects that are lured by Johansson were not actors, but in fact everyday people who were later informed of their part in the film. This adds an odd parallel between the real and the surreal that is both clever and strange.
The men that Johansson seduces are mostly all alike. There are a couple who are completely different to the rest in both looks and attitudes, but ultimately, “Under The Skin” aims to make a bold statement regarding superfluously false paradigms of beauty and attitudes towards sex overall. It achieves this completely and tends to paint the male species in a very negative light.
“Under The Skin” was tense, compelling and engaging, yet it wasn’t as striking as it could have been upon first viewing. It seems to be a film that one could study ten times over and still be confused by. It has strong symbolic messages and is visually incredible at numerous points, however the more reflection that occurs regarding the film, the more questions, queries and qualms are raised.
If surrealism is your cup of tea, “Under The Skin” will not disappoint. If fun, easy going and simplistic comedies are your forte, then you will find yourself walking out of the theatre.