10 things about Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin

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  1. Under the Skin is about an alien who drives around Scotland in a van seducing and kidnapping men.
  2. Jonathan Glazer also directed Sexy Beast. But Under the Skin is nothing like Sexy Beast. Except perhaps in their being unfaithful to their respective genres.
  3. Some shots have a documentary feel to them. I think they were shot hidden-camera, cinéma vérité style. Johansson talks to actual strangers and walks down a busy street, etc. I’m surprised, considering the length of these shots, that no one recognized her.
  4. Despite the slow pace, strange scenes, and formal experimentation, all the shots served a clear purpose. This could either be a good thing or a bad thing.
  5. Naked men with erections look really strange when they walk.
  6. Bugs appear twice in the film. First, when Johansson’s character initially encounters a human: she finds an ant on the human’s body and lets it crawl onto her finger. We then get a close up of the ant moving its head and legs franticly (ants will starve to death when they are separated from the colony). Johansson’s character sees the second bug after capturing a victim: it’s a fly hurling itself at a window, trying to escape a house.
  7. I have Scottish relatives but some of the accents were so strong that I couldn’t understand them.
  8. I found two alien perspectives on humans in the film: first a misanthropic one that sees all humans as identical in their insignificance, as indistinguishable and inconsequential as ants in a colony. In one scene, multiple exposures of images of humans make an abstract blur, out of which Johansson’s face materializes.
  9. The second perspective is a humanitarian one: things as banal as a comedy special, a space heater, or chocolate cake suddenly become strange, otherworldly things. New objects of interest. This is the perspective of the benevolent alien experiencing a foreign culture.
  10. Which perspective comes to dominate is anyone’s guess. Without giving away the ending, I’d say that this film shows how both can be dangerous.

 

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