Title: Under The Skin
Country: UK, USA, Switzerland
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Music: Mica Levi
Cinematography: Daniel Landin
Substantially an unorthodox extraterrestrial tall-tale from UK nonconformist Jonathan Glazer, UNDER THE SKIN is his long-waited third feature after SEXY BEAST (2000) and BIRTH (2004) and it is truly worth the wait. Glazer composes sublime visual accomplishments and accurate location scouting to counterbalance the linear narrative happenings, which almost can be bracketed as a silent film if we can exclude all the pickup chitchat (barely accessible thanks to the thick Scottish accent).
Scarlett Jo is an alien seductress in Scotland, drives a van and selects her quarries – young men entranced by her sex appeal, then lures them into a black liquid when she undresses herself, where their bodies will be digested completely with only skins left, which is deeply unsettling yet eerily intriguing.
Meanwhile, she is like an infant assimilating from the strange environs, she may master the language for communication, but human behaviour is still a terra incognita for her, when she is at the beach, accidentally witnesses a drowning accident left an infant baby alone and crying, her stern indifference to the situation is a firm proof that Glazer is genuinely depriving any human emotion from aliens, in the progress, her mindset is gradually altering after the repetitiveness of her job, until she disobeys her role and releases one of her victim, a shy young man with elephantiasis (Adam Pearson) from the black goo, in the second half, the film takes a turn into an expedition for her to experience like a real human being, she abandons her van, tries human food, even starts a friendly coexistence with a goodhearted loner.
Only during the amorous moment, man’s basic instinct is a wakeup call for her, all she has is a skin, the imitation game is over, she leaves the man and escapes into a forest, and there, the predator-and-prey roles are fiendishly switched, eventually she meets her demise with a burning flame in a snow land.
Mica Levi’s unnervingly experimental score is a killing mood-moderator through and through, against the elusive optical minimalism, her sonic embellishment potently leads audience into the labyrinthine mind of an unknown creature. Scarlett Johansson, after her stunning turns as the bombshell in DON JON (2013) and an IOS system in HER (2013), this film challenges her to cleanse out all her star charisma and put on a disguised distance, minutely fixes on her unearthly physique and indescribable inner transformation. Her eyeballs are endowed with deepest mysticism and the role is a singular renaissance for her, she should on the trajectory to be the next Matthew McConaughey, and much more deserving for her versatile talent.
UNDER THE SKIN is an alternately misty, nocturnal and surreal gem with unyielding resolve to woo its art-house-prone audience while maintaining strong vigour of originality in the shopworn aliens-are-walking-among-us diegesis.