I am not familiar with a lot of Jonathan Glazer’s work. The only one that I’d seen was Birth and frankly, at the time, I wasn’t quite pleased with it. Like they say about wine, it might get better after a few viewings. But the thing about Birth was that it felt commercial and I found nothing in the movie that I could connect to. Coming to the movie in discussion here, Under The Skin packs almost everything I love and yes that initially included a Scarlett Johansson going full frontal. I wouldn’t lie, I saw this movie after watching and being teased by the dozen bootleg clips and trailers that had come out prior to the movie. Call me a pervert but its not everyday you get to see Scarlett Johansson so. But on the contrary I was intrigued by the fact that this movie was raking in good reviews as well.
Unlike the usual Hollywood tropes, where aliens and explosions runs rampant, Under The Skin shouldn’t be rushed into. Its off to an awfully slow start and you have to get drenched in the visuals however meaningless they seem. There is an apparent Cronenberg and Kubrick influence to be found here. The story is pretty much simple. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien in an astoundingly beautiful woman’s body and she seduces men and harvests them for god knows what reasons. Its a fairly straightforward narrative. I’d been hearing a lot of people telling that they were trying figure out what it was all about, conversely I found it had the perfect mix of mystique and ambiguity to it which made it more meaningful to me. I didn’t have to go ‘why/what/when/how’ watching it. All that you need was right there in the narrative. Of course post the initial perplexity of long silent shots, everything came right in place despite the baggage of unanswered questions left behind. Its got a lazy pacing but it keeps you guessing and never gets boring throughout its 1 hour 48 hours runtime. It also might be labelled pretentious and this is definitely not a movie for the casual audience. This is a movie for people with patience but for the impatient though, a full frontal Scarlett Johansson can be motivation enough.
Under The Skin is a very visual experience and its accompanied by some astounding cinematography. It has got bare minimum dialogues and that’s where the visuals and score come to play. There were many a times where I stared, jaws agape at the visuals, letting the cold creep in through my toes. Had I to concise the soundtrack in a single word, it’d be bizarre. Mica Levi’s positively terrifying score adhered close to the equally bizarre visuals. Once you watch the movie you won’t be able to shake that haunting score from your head and believe me you WILL remember it. There were some scenes that displayed some genuine shock. The Beach scene in particular appalled me beyond limits.
And of course Scarlett Johansson with her gorgeous eyes and aphrodisiacal body is captivating enough and she does deliver one of her career-best performances here. I’d been wondering why Scarlet was chosen for the role and post-watching this, I knew exactly why. Glazer wanted someone insanely beautiful for the role, someone who could roam around Glasgow and pick guys up for real. He had to make sure the guys couldn’t say NO to this ethereal beauty. I can’t think of another actress than Scarlett Johansson who would suit the role. Of course there is the Marketing side to it as well, Scarlett Johansson hasn’t ever gone full frontal before and Glazer had made sure that if the movie aint for you, atleast those scenes will turn enough heads. Furthermore it beats me how real men from Glasgow were cast in this movie and as a result it brings out the hard-to-miss rawness of it.
Under The Skin is an out of the world experience that begs to be seen attentively. Its hard to miss the undertones here as at its core, it all shows how it feels to be human. It’s incredibly atmospheric, rather than being much about plot. I predict it will become a cult film, because it practically looks designed to be just that. Its almost two months since I’d seen the movie and it still haunts me to this day, there are only few movies that yearns me for multiple viewings, do so and it becomes much much more than just Scarlett Johansson in her birthday suit.