A female drives a van through the roads and streets of Scotland seducing lonely men. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, BrazilWritten by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
April 4, 2014
Scar Jo in the Woman Who Fell to Earth, Falls Flat.
In Under the Skin, Scarlet Johansson plays a nameless woman, alien, cyborg…. (not quite sure honestly), who prays on men in Scotland’s nightlife. She seduces them, lures them into a dark building with the prospect of sex and then harvests their flesh in a surreal ritual that is visually haunting. Not an image you want in your head after the credits role if you want to sleep well. Jonathan Glazer has a lot of Kubrick-esq moments in this film, I am reminded of the opening to 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968) as well as the blood elevator sequence in The Shining (1980). The film is very artfully done, a little abstract and very existential. The movie contains nudity and sex, yet it is never erotic. Glazer strives to make the viewer feel uncomfortable, as a means to show what a cold superficial desire for carnal pleasure sex can be. The flesh we desire in seeing on Scarlet Jo is off set by the horror of the flesh harvesting. In one scene in particular she picks up John Merrick like man with Elephantiasis. Its in this scene she seems to find a new found respect for human life in a man who’s skin is superficially unpleasant. The whole movie is an indictment of what is beautiful and want is ugly, the dark animal nature of that drives our society to desire flesh; Beauty and the Beast.
All that being said, I did not love this movie. Its goal is to leave you cold and uncomfortable in our own skin, mission accomplished. There are some nice scenes of Scotland but it is far from a video travel brochure. Unless you like foggy, rainy, cold and miserable. Here is a tip, turn on the close captioning for this movie. Its in English, but the Scottish brogues are thicker than the fog in this movie. There are long, deliberately slow scenes that try to come off as haunting and reflective, but end up tedious. The soundtrack sounds as if it is performed by the rusty swing set orchestra. If you aren’t looking for a think piece and more looking for escapism, this is not your movie. I must hand it to Scarlett Johansson for taking such a bold role in her career. It shows her range, but she risks to alienate some of her target fans. Even just the guys looking for and excuse to see her naked. I think this role is an interesting choice given the recent leak of her personal nude photos on line, much like Jennifer Lawrence. The role makes a statement better than any angry press release or tearful Barbra Walters interview. She is making us look at the dark sinister desire that put her photos on the net in the first place, a desire to digitally harvest flesh ourselves.