July 24, 2014
From the beginning shot of this film depicting lights and eclipses, we will already see that this will not be just another run-of-the-mill motion picture. When we see a nude Scarlett Johansson for the first time in that pristine white room, we definitely know we are in for a different sort of ride.
A woman drives around Scotland in her van. She strikes up conversations with various men she picks up along the way. She will seduce them into coming with her and they follow her into her black void of a house. However, as this woman encounters more men, she will also realize and discover new things about herself.
Despite the presence of a big name star Scarlett Johansson, this is not a mainstream film. The techniques are unmistakably art-house, with long stretches of silence, of Johansson just driving around, of random people just going about their daily routines. It is said that to be realistic, the film makers shot Johansson picking up real men off the street (not actors) and interviewed them without a script as they were driving around. Their thick Scottish accents may be unintelligible.
Many audiences may just dismiss this as a aimless waste of 100 minutes, since on paper, the plot seems to be simple enough for a single "X-Files" episode. However, serious cinephiles will be enraptured by the film's bizarre cinematographic beauty, deeper symbolic meaning and recall films by hallowed directors like Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch.
There are carefully orchestrated shots of seduction, very effective (of course with Johansson in various stages of undress) and mysterious (with that pitch black shiny room and that eerie piercing music by Mica Levi). There was a scene with a couple, their baby and their dog on an isolated windswept beach which will disturb you. There was a scene involving a man with a disfigured face which will haunt you.
"Under the Skin" is a unique artistic movie experience which will polarize audiences. Director Jonathan Glazer (whose last feature film "Birth" was released ten years ago) has created a bleak masterpiece which will visually mesmerize and thematically baffle his viewers. So, are you seduced to take up this challenge? 7/10.