What the Movies Do to Us: Under The Skin (15)
25 April 2017
Our entry into and participation in the world of a film is through its characters. We may become dependent on them for our ‘take’ on the film as a whole and, in the process, align ourselves with them. We may not always notice these manipulations.
The occasional film, though, points them up: Taxi Driver, for instance, insists on an un-ignorable, queasy-making alignment with its psychotic protagonist. Under the Skin goes one further: this is a film that attempts to let us see the human world through the eyes of a non-human. The effect is electrifying and utterly unsettling.
Scarlett Johansson stars as a seductive alien in humanoid form, roaming the streets of Scotland in a transit van, picking up lonely men to process their bodies. Everything you see in the film comes filtered through her perspective of total otherness, which director Jonathan Glazer achieved by shooting much of the film undercover, out in the real world, with Johansson in disguise. Suddenly the humdrum, everyday world – shopping centres, nightclubs, carparks and the people in them – seem impossibly foreign.
UK/US/Switzerland 2013 Dir Jonathan Glazer 108 min Digital presentation