Monday, July 28, 2014

Under the Skin

Inexplicably Under the Skin escaped from the Incredibly Strange section of the Film Festival programme to the Thriller section.

The opening scene is a drawn out arrival scene, which is more than reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then suddenly we are in Scotland, following a motorcycle. That dramatic contrast between the alien images, and the mundane and familiar is a shock. But just because we are in a recognisable place doesn't make the film any more understandable.

The bulk of the film is of a nameless beautiful woman (Scarlett Johansson) cruising the shopping malls and streets of Glasgow eyeing up men, occasionally striking up conversations. While the concept of the camera lingering and following women is common place in cinema, the opposite is striking and sinister. She is inquisitive about where the men are going and who they are meeting, and she freely offers lifts to those who aren't intending to meet anyone. This is a quiet and gentle film. There is no screaming (except of the motorbike sort). These men are seduced freely and happily to their doom.

If this isn't enough, their reactions to a tragic accident underline the fact that she and her motorcycle riding compatriot are not empathetic in the way we expect humans to be. Eventually she goes off book and abandons her successful modus operandi, indulges in a little experimentation (with cake and public transport) which is the only time the mood is lightened. This finds the tables turned on her.

Very little is explained or even hinted at. For instance the relationship between the male motorcyclist and Scarlett Johansson is unclear, as is how they communicate. Is she his boss or vice-versa or is one of them a robot?

While parts of it are mesmerizing: the busy urban scenes in Glasgow, the beautiful, bleak winter countryside, the seduction scenes. But mostly this film feels painfully slow. There is barely 15 minutes worth of ideas, which has been stretched to a mind numbing 108 minutes of film. I wanted either more ideas to think about (and/or more plot) or a much shorter film.

You will like this film if you like your sci-fi films strange, beautiful, unexplained and glacially slow.

Other reviewers raved about Under the Skin.

Ian's rating 1/5 Anne's rating 2/5


  1. Antony K4:18 pm

    It reminded me of Upstream Color, it is more enjoyable if you already know the details plot before seeing the film.

    1. Perhaps you are right but the film is only very loosely based on the book, which is perhaps a pity.