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Under the Skin (2014)

July 19, 2014

Under the skin poster_thumb[2]Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is a patient film. Complete with dawdling takes, minuscule dialogue, and an array of symbolic shots, Under the Skin is an art house thriller for those with patience on their side. I am not a patient person. For me, Under the Skin is a meaningless hodgepodge of images and moments that gives no clarity or reason to what takes place on screen. Be advised: I “got it” in the proverbial sense of the phrase, arguably before I was supposed to. I picked up on the visual cues and hints of plot advances that unfolded early on, but that didn’t grant me the satisfaction of enjoying the near two-hour divulge into hoity-toity symbolism.

under the skin

Articulated through fragmented images, Under the Skin follows a cryptic woman’s prowl through Scotland’s countryside as she incites men into seemingly innocent one-night stands. Yet, we soon learn there’s something more sinister lurking within her intentions and the film spirals into a hodgepodge of secrecy and betrayal. Scarlett Johansson is given the chance to show off her acting chops by capturing the subtleties of her character due to the conversationally-light script leaving much of her actions reliant on thoughtful glances and restrained facial expressions than an outward show of performance.

Glazer utilizes a host of digital tricks and impressive makeup work to unveil the events that takes place before us. His style is steady taking its time with slow, placid shots in which not much happens. For this reason, I grew bored and uninterested as Under the Skin progressed. No physical shot was attractive enough to keep me entertained with the muddled story that grew increasingly frustrating due to its lack of clarity and cohesiveness. We speculate aspects of the story, yet never truly know the reasons for the main character’s existences, their desires, intentions, or even their methods. In fact, we receive nothing beyond superficial shots that leaves the identity and nature of the woman and her male escort a mystery. This lack of clarity has no place in a narrative whose focus is a psychological look into what it means to be human.

Under the Skin

There are ways to tell a story ambiguously allowing audiences to draw their own conclusions, but to tell a complex story in which the character develops into something completely different by the end, yet leave viewers no mode of understanding is pointless and poor storytelling. Under The Skin’s critical praises honestly surprise me. It felt as though key points of the story are missing because someone goofed and submitted a live-action version of the story board rather than a finished product. However, it is definitely one of the more polarizing and thought provoking films in recent years and begs viewers to do more than just passively watch what’s on screen. While I’m disappointed at the overall project, I respect Under the Skin for its metaphysical exploration and brave cinematic intentions.

I’d like to say avoid it, but it’s intentions are admirable enough to SEE IT.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2014 7:50 PM

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  1. 2014’s Best and Worst | The Cinephiliac

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