There are two possible reasons the majority of the people will have when they decide to watch Under The Skin. They either:
- Read good reviews about this movie
- Heard that Scarlett Johansson has multiple nude scenes.
My reasons were a little bit of both actually. I was curious about this small picture that never made a dent in the box-office and seems to be coming out of nowhere. Could this be a little known gem; a possible classic in the making?
Could be, The Shawshank Redemption was a flop too when it was released you know? It became a classic over time and found its way into people’s hearts through video rentals and TV-airings.
But such will not be the case here.
If I would to go and describe Under The Skin in one sentence it would be: an Art-house take on Species. As you might or might not know, Species was a 1995 thriller about an alien looking like an attractive young woman roaming the streets in search for men to reproduce. It was most notable for the first starring role of model Natasha Henstridge and a rather large amount of nudity.
In Under The Skin Scarlett Johansson plays an alien looking like a regular woman, who’s roaming the streets of Scotland searching for men to seduce. It also involves a lot of nudity, in this case also from guys; erections and all. Women will be pleased.
Though they both sound familiar in terms of plot, in terms of execution they could not be further apart. Species was typical Hollywood fare and basically a chase movie, while Under The Skin is more of a study. It’s one of those movies that really leaves a lot to the interpretation of the audience. The first 15 minutes are without dialogue and as the audience I had to guess what was going on and why. This works when you’re showing something/someone doing a something we can understand, like the opening scene of There Will be Blood where we see Daniel Day Lewis working in an oil well. In this case we just have to guess what going on as one weird scene after another comes along complete with an audio track full of arrhythmic glitches and stabs. It’s like watching a student project trying to convey depth and intelligence.
Under The Skin never lets us in on what’s going on; motivations are never explained. Scenes feel weird, occasionally never go anywhere and have no real function to the story; the story that ultimately is about an alien predator who’s luring men to a location where she can drain them for… ehm… well that’s never explained. When one of her victims turns out to be disfigured on the outside but beautiful on the inside she starts to questions her task and runs away.
Bad movies either explain too much, treating their audience as complete imbeciles, or explain way to little leaving the audience guessing about what the hell is going on. Most simple B-movies are guilty of over-explaining: In one scene they tell someone where they’re going, the next scene they actually put titles on the screen to tell us where the scene is taking place even though it was mentioned less than a minute ago. Art-house movies tend to love the abstract, and therefor leave as much to the audience as possible. This gives people who think they’re intelligent a subject they can reminisce about. It’s the same bullshit you get when you paint a piece of canvas blue, hang it up in a museum and let the art experts explain what the artists is trying to say.
Under The Skin is such a movie.
Bottom line: if you’re looking for Johansson’s naked body you can just as well skip through the movie or use Google Images. If you’re looking for some good old entertainment you can skip it entirely. If you want to debate about what the director is trying do in a group of cinema snobs you’ve got just the right movie here.