Cinematic Releases: Under The Skin

We finally had a chance to catch Under The Skin. Here's our review.

Imagine the disjointed narrative linguistics of Nicolas Roeg’s ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ as shot by Aphex Twin videographer Chris Cunningham, and you have a rough idea of Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under the Skin’  Nine years since his equally divisive and haunting masterwork ‘Birth,’which featured Nicole Kidman in what was unquestionably her  finest hour, 'Under the Skin' is a quiet existentialist cry in terror chronicling an odyssey through the Scottish countryside, on a secret mission that evolves eerily from soul stealing to searching.  Much like Nicolas Winding Refn’s polarizing ‘Only God Forgives', it's a silent exercise in pure cinema as narrative storytelling, with intermittent dialogue sprinkling the film and intentionally flat characterizations providing a sense of cold alienation.

Populated with images and sounds as far reaching and deeply frightening as the monolith drifting through Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ we are thrust headlong into an extraterrestrial perspective with Scotland as a kind of Moon for Scarlett Johansson's bravest, most meditative performance as an incurious, insectile explorer sneakily drifting beneath our noses. Much like it's central figure, Johansson and Glazer walked and drove among real passerby with cameras either hidden or strategically placed to garner unscripted reactions to the film's elusive predator.

"Come on. You've had a few
too many......"
Fueled by a soundtrack akin to a Lynchian wind tunnel with Penderecki strings painting an atmosphere of fear and unease, the confusing promenade through our own humanoid landscape is accelerated by random shifts in tone with images ranging from kaleidoscopic psychedelia to minimalist sterility, all intended to be beyond human comprehension. Glazer's vistas of unsuspecting men disrobing with Johansson in a blank abyss couldn't help but echo Chris Cunningham's “Flex,” with images of naked bodies engaged in graphic coitus floating in a black void punctuated by sharp and startling electronic sounds, all to a chilling yet abstract effect.

As difficult to pinpoint as this otherworldly worldview may be, the aims of the creature and the film itself seem poised to holding a mirror before the audience, asking who the soul is behind the eyes and face looking back.

-Andrew Kotwicki