A woman is carried unconscious into a van, and is immediately stripped of her clothes to be worn by another mysterious woman with the face of Scarlett Johansson. Before finishing the process, her eyes settle on a little ant that has ended up there by chance, but the camera makes a detail shot of it. Without saying a word, we already know the essential minimum for what comes next.
It’s one of those moments that for most who deal with ‘Under the Skin’ represents more confusion than anything else, because it’s a film that refuses to communicate anything other than abstract or intricate everything that’s going on. it actually makes up a pretty simple story. However, the shape is what makes it really interestingOr just a movie.
be an ant
Jonathan Glazer’s challenging science fiction work was released more than 10 years ago in many countries, although in Spain it took up to 7 years to be seen on movie screens (and it did so on movie screens, you need movies in the heat of the pandemic). Not even having a star like Johansson freed her from being a hidden cult object that had to be discovered in other ways. Now it is perfectly accessible in streaming through Filmin.
The argument is quite simple, as we have already said before. Johansson is the mysterious woman in someone else’s clothes, driving a van through the streets of Scotland in search of lonely men who are delighted to spend time with a beautiful woman as she appears to be. These men are then led to an indescribable and dark place where a terrible fate awaits them.
It could be thought that Glazer is here designing a kind of femme fatale with an alien context, turning the male gaze perfectly around giving him just what he is looking for to lead him to his downfall. But no, here he tells us the story of an ant, with a colorful shell that is still one more tool with which to carry out your work. He is not even aware of the value this tool can have until “abductees” point it out to him, and is therefore unable to appreciate it in others, hence his strange interaction with a man with neurofibromatosis. A sequence with interesting implications, even if it reiterates what the film was already communicating.
‘Under the Skin’: a challenge
Glazer creates a science fiction film with a very different aesthetic, mostly drawing on a coldness with a certain austerity that occasionally acquires dark notes of abstraction. The bleak picture of Scotland creates a slightly dystopian atmosphere, accompanying a story that tries to explore self-perception in a dark way, entering both individual freedom and the bullying culture.
With this, he creates a somewhat disturbing variation of ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, with a result that is more curious than it interests, and more interesting than it ends up liking. There is no doubt that there are very few movies quite like ‘Under the Skin’which is a reason for gratitude for the detractors who see it as an excess of pretension, but also a reason for pessimism for those who are fascinated by endless cult objects like this one.
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