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Under the Skin

Under the Skin film posterSynopsis

Very loosely based on the novel by Michel Faber.  It’s about an alien (Scarlet Johansson) who visits Earth.  She apparently steals the body of a human and then tracks down prey in her van, travelling through the streets of Glasgow.  She takes pity on one of the victims and lets him go.  She witnesses a drowning at sea and leaves a child helpless.  She travels around Scotland.  A forester tries to rape her and discovers her true identity…

Review

I will confess I was deeply disappointed with this movie which refuses to make cerebral compensation for this wilfully low budget appearance.  It’s a familiar sci-fi story: an alien comes to Earth and responds to human reality.  Robert Heinstein wrote Stranger in a Strange Land in which his alien’s benign nature inadvertently satirises human corruption.  Bowie’s Man Who Fell to Earth is based on this.  Bowie’s alien is a family man who is angelic, abused by sinful humans.  Then there is the silly ’90s film Species, which effectively was Geiger’s Alien meets Baywatch. Someone who reads the book tells me it’s about wolf-faced aliens who abduct earthlings and fatten them ready for eating.  For the first ten minutes of Under the Skin we get electric mutterings (learning our language?) within a brilliant circle of light and shade, pierced by a hypodermic threat (?) in an electrified screech.  This is reminiscent of 2001‘s aligned moons and the ‘avant garde’ films of Jordan Belson.  Then it’s on a steep gradient into posturing banality.  There is the unamusingly gimmicky prank of the alien (Scarlet Johansson) picking up unsuspecting members of the Scottish public; they are genuinely unaware that they’re in a film. The film crew are hidden in the back of Johansson’s van and for a lot of the time I felt like I’d been kidnapped and stuffed into the boot of that van.  This is a suffocating and self absorbed journey.  Perhaps all this is meant to emphasise the chance/nature of extraterrestrial visitation, a million miles from “take me to your leader”.  This alien is no Michael Rennie from The Day the Earth stood Still.  She takes her victims to a place of black liquid emptiness where bodies morph into Francis Bacon grotesques of boneless flesh.  This is futurist vampirism.  Okay, I get it, the insidious creepiness of this alien in the guise of a film star has satirical possibilities (which the film is too solemnly portentous to exploit).  The sight of Scarlett Johansson in a Glaswegian street is as unlikely as an alien visitor.  Her would-be visceral darkness and scary blankness mask an oily dark reptilian who looks like a reject from X-Men but a lot of the time she just looks vacant.  The things she sees are strange to her and should be strange to us but the film looks like a minimalist joke of nihilist posing.  There is no plot, of course, just art house self absorption and non-acting.  A waste of time..

 

 

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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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