Under the Skin 23.02.18 [15]

Under the Skin is a 2013 British science fiction film directed by Jonathan Glazer, loosely based on Michel Faber’s 2000 novel. Starring Scarlett Johansson, it was named one of 2014’s best films, won a European Film Award for best soundtrack and ranked 61st in the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.

A lifeless body, carried to a van by a motorcyclist, is stripped by the main character (Johansson) who dons her clothes assuming her persona. She trawls the streets of Glasgow in a white van, studiously observing people. It becomes clear that she is looking for loners and she engages her first victim in pleasant conversation, enticing him to her ‘home’ where he naturally assumes sex is on the cards. However, he is trapped in a black liquid.

She chats to her second ‘victim’ on a beach, but he is more interested in rescuing a drowning person, which perhaps explains why she kills him and drags his body into her van.

Her focus is changing and there is a scene where the motorcyclist seems cross with her.

She is dragged along with a group of club-going women and seems very uncomfortable in the lively nightclub, where she is chatted up by a man who meets her criteria and the same fate as her first ‘pick-up’.

Her reaction to people coming to her aid when she falls in a busy street highlights her otherworldliness. She seems increasingly focussed on human interactions. Her next target has a disfigured face, but she appears to reflect on what she is doing and lets him escape.

She appears increasingly uncomfortable in this human world and accepts the offer from a concerned man to stay at his house. Comfortable with him, she appears increasingly human, yet suddenly realises that her human form is not complete when they try to have sex.

She flees but it is not clear whether out of embarrassment or to escape the motorcyclists searching for her.

She ends up in a forest hut where she wakes up as she is groped by the forest worker she met earlier. She escapes but he catches her again and attempts to rape her…

As Glazer wanted the film to feel realistic, most characters were played by non-actors, but the casting was nonetheless carefully considered; the motorcyclist was championship motorcycle road racer, Jeremy McWilliams, as the film required a “world-class” motorcyclist capable of riding through the Scottish Highlands at high speeds in bad weather.

The filming methods were unconventional, using guerrilla filmmaking and hidden cameras and, for many of the shots, Johansson drove round Glasgow in a huge van interacting with unsuspecting locals – who did not initially realise that this was part of the film. Almost the entire film was shot in Scotland.

 

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