Review: Under the Skin


Black short hair Scarlett Johansson drives a van in Scotland, collects men and makes them into meat to nourish her hungry planet. The R rated Sci-Fi Drama based on Michael Faber’s novel of the same name, directed by Jonathan Glazer, is more of an experimental thriller with Scarlett Johansson in it. Audiences attracted by her never before seen full nudity performance, should just remember this, “You should just let go of yourself, because you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”


Famous for making Blur’s music video ‘The Universal’, Jonathan Glazer’s 3rd film, “Under the Skin” is nothing like any of his previous films, ‘Sexy Beast’ and ‘Birth’. The Dutch-born author Michael Faber lives in Scotland and considered a Scottish writer, wrote this story about an alien sent to earth in a sexy woman’s body to collect meat – and who else is easier to trap than men if you are an attractive woman? And where else would it be easier to find macho manly men than at the exit of a ball game in Scotland? But we quickly learn that the alien isn’t aware of her sex appeal nor how to seduce men, just like the alien quickly learns that the exit of a ballgame won’t leave the men left alone for her to trap.


The film starts with a total black screen with a very sharp, eye burning, light spot in the middle. The hole that lets through the light will soon be filled with a round stick of the exact size of the hole and the whole thing becomes an iris of a human eye. Night. A man on a motorcycle, speeding on a badly lit country road, stops next to a white van and walks down to the side of the road in a total darkness. He picks up a long curly hair woman’s body on his shoulder and puts her into the van. Then we see the woman’s body has Scarlett’s face, and a short curly hair woman undresses the body, puts the clothes on herself and leaves with the exact same Scarlett’s face.


The alien Scarlett drives the big white van around to where she can find men, rolls down her window and asks any men passing by, where they come from? And where they are going? If the man is going to meeting someone or if he has someone awaiting them at home, she will just aboard quickly. If the mission encounters complications, the motorcycle man will show up to clean up the mess. But if the man is alone and lives alone, she will kindly give him a lift. The lift ends by walking into a modern theater stage like black space in her nasty home. Slow foot steps like exotic drum beat, she leads the dance, she strips off her clothes and the man follows, dances and walks into a black gluey liquid pool, where they emerge and stay captive until their skin soaks enough liquid to separate the meat. Then the meat is sucked out in a second, leaving only the skin floating in the black pool.


Scary and terrifying indeed (specially for men of course). The sexism reversed goes on very well until she traps an elephant man-like man. Really? When we can’t bare anymore of this sickness, she decides to let him go before she quits her filthy cruel job and starts wondering around in the rainy street. A lonely and kind man takes her into his care and then later tries to have sex with her. But since she has no experience of this kind, the sexual sensation frightens her and she runs into woods where she bumps into a talkative truck driver who later tries to rape her.


There is certainly no classic sexy seduction game here, but her not so seductive approach is exactly her game. She’s quite simple and direct, and she never needs to hint anything about sex, nor wearing any cliché slutty outfits to attract men except her animal fur jacket. Sometimes, we even think she’s not good at what she’s doing or she simply has a hard time to attract men. For someone as attractive and healthy as Scarlett Johansson, in the small cities or on the road between them, blond or black hair, she should be able to easily attract any lonely man or to hook up with a solo foreign traveler. And if her mission is to collect good quality slim meat and as she never needs to physically struggle with any of her prey, then she’s not really picking up the right samples, as none of the men she traps are have a really good quantity of meat.


The music video Director of Photography Daniel Landin who also worked on Glazer’s ‘Sexy Beast’ has delivered us a very beautiful black, dark and grey rainy Scotland which can give anyone chills and goosebumps in the theater. The young and talented English singer, songwriter and composer Mica Levi composed her debut score, a beautiful but thrilling soundtrack with violins, cellos and percussion instruments, to make this sexy alien very exotic and conducting the unknowingly fatal modern sex dance. The very theater-and-modern-dance-like “Under the Skin” is somewhat very Kubrick and very unexpected. You maybe love it or hate it, but we can’t wait to see what other surprise that Jonathan Glazer is preparing for us in the future.

– Shumaï Chou