Under The Skin (2014)- A Non-Kubrickian Gem?

Every once in a while I love to watch a harrowing, dystopian film with certain areas of symbolism and ethereal meaning. It is nearly inexplicable to talk about Jonathan Glazer’s magnum opus as it too ahead of our time and demands to be left uninterpreted as it reaches towards the end. The film left me in an unsettling shock and I had to glimpse through various other articles on the internet to search through the essence of the film. However, I do think it doesn’t necessarily matter what each person writes about it as each article is a description of their own exploration and experience. To make things more simple, “Under The Skin” challenges our intelligence and wants us to treasure for more meanings in life. Such meanings which haven’t had ever been heard of, and are traversing through human existentialism.

It is us humans who first started using spearheads, stone tools and later discovered civilization. We formed a society, thus it now gives a meaning why homo sapiens are actually homo sapiens. The need of going forward was always incepted in our minds from the beginning, and we did witness war, love, technology, and urbanization. In fact, these all are our creations in this universe. Watching this film took me in a parallel universe where I was completely numb, and particularly focusing on things with mere concentration. There wasn’t a single thought which was distracting my senses and I was profoundly thinking about the civilization of aliens. What does the word “Alien” exactly mean? Are they alienated from our life forms and planet that they never wish to show their presence to us? Or is it the complacency or their self-satisfaction that they don’t want a confrontation with us? The film answers everything.

“Under The Skin” begins with cyptic images and which are bluffing our minds on the very first go. It spontaneously changes track and takes us to the country roads of Scotland. The initial images of the film have a unique similarity with Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” where we glide through interstellar space. The original score synchronizes well with a terrorizing music and becomes a parasite on the spectator’s body till the end. Glazer has depicted surreal images which are a fitting example to the works of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, and Stanley Kubrick in 21st century. Slow camera takes, a ravishing cinematography, and continuous silence makes the film standout on every aspect. There are situations which can’t be expressed with our language but moreover have to be felt within our understanding. The film constitutes a distinct experience to each different person, and finds its speciality through the same medium.

It’s so visually resounding to realize that this film is meant for a detailed exploration of humanity and civilization. It’s common to listen from various sources that humanity is falling to evil and villainous trenches, and Glazer here tries to explain by highlighting nymphomania and loneliness going hand in hand. Totally hard to deny that Scarlett Johansson gives an incomparably elusive performance in this one, a performance which is entirely different to her other works. The film never sprinkles an ode of hint and keeps us engrossed in its mysterious, eerie undertone. Prowling through the streets of Glasgow is an extraterrestrial being navigating places, learning about human behavior, exploring the Earth, who has its own purpose. Disguised in form of a seductively charming lady, Scarlett Johansson is seen interacting with distinct people and is understanding, learning, and exploring human intellect and behavior on each occasion.

The most intriguing facet which keeps the viewer’s attention unhindered is the after-effect and turning point of each interaction. Entering the void was the most horrifying experience in the film, as it doesn’t only frightens our eyes but provides a plausible meaning to human senses. The void is a similar reproduction to Black Hole, only it is constructed on Earth and governed by the extraterrestrial in this film. It sucks lecherous lust out of a human being and punishes them by taking their life away from the Earth. “Under The Skin” explores different sides of human nature brilliantly well, with mostly the evil nature floating around in the film most times. We observe several moments of humanitarian aid, care and affection, and shelter also being provided to the extraterrestrial, but it sheds light on practical villainous nature of homo sapiens in each life forms. The world being experienced and visualized through the eyes of a non-human is certainly horrifying to believe, but it does open rooms of questions to our skepticism.

Do we know ourselves well? Is our evil side still unexplored and lusts for all treacherous things in life? Why is loneliness existing and crumbling human lives with artrocity? Does loneliness later invite sexual lust to some people? The film neither tries to explain things to people but makes them experience each situation by highlighting sinister and sinful deeds of each individual. It is a mirror to our own sins and incessantly tells to look back at our own mistakes. I am so in endless fascination with this Jonathan Glazer manifestation which had a beguiling influence on me. To look at it, it’s scary but extremely enlightening in many ways. It’s like a parasite and which won’t leave the possession soon as far as I am concerned. I wouldn’t leave any point and actually want to determine how close Glazer went by in soliciting an imitation of a Kubrick feature film. Well, if it comes to score, cinematography, and slow burning takes, a big yes! Let’s look at the technicalities of the film now.

Us humans concieve an idea first. Later we delve into the intricate details of it, and finally manifest it in reality. We appreciate it, we admire it, and later we extinguish it. We kill it in simple terms, have we ever been benevolent to other creations apart from this insipid hatred for the others. The final shots of the film perfectly captures the essence and tap into our minds with numbing emotions and disbelief. The film is a gradient of self exploration, self destruction, creation of wonder, loneliness and many other things. It means a lot of things. Glazer in one of his interviews after being asked about hidden meanings of his film, replied that it is upon us individuals how we figure out things on our own. Don’t take it to intellect, but rather experience it. It is undoubtedly an unprecedented creation of time and effort blended in at rhe right place, and at the right hands of the right individual.

Although, I am a bit contradictory on the technicalities of the film. However, I personally think some frames could have been avoided, or rather given much more time and effort in filming it. The camerawork was a revelation but was loose and fragmented at places, thus leaving many things like an untouched jigsaw puzzle. Keeping the symbolism and plot of the film to be bizzare in mind, still there was an emerging necessity to explaining some shots in detail. The instances include the mysterious biker, the dead hooker, and many other questions are left unanswered. Unique and appealing to realize in one way, but for certain others it could be detestable. Technically speaking, it’s a nobel prize for direction for a person like Jonathan Glazer, and I personally do think there should be a Nobel for filmmaking too. Scarlett Johansson is still on my mind and the terrifically terrorizing score speaks about this film for sure. It charms on a well-written and adapted screenplay too, the cinematography remains indispensably important, and the usage of abstract images was a delightful feature for the audience and film both. Was it really a 21st century Non-Kubrickian gem? It may or may not be for many, but it did transform me into an entirely different being than what I was before. A new addition in my 21st Century Favorites now!

ACTING- 4/5

CINEMATOGRAPHY- 4.5/5

SCREENPLAY- 4/5

DIRECTION- 5/5

ORIGINAL SCORE- 4.5/5

EDITING/PACING- 3.5/5

VERDICT- 4/5

Please do let me know what you guys think about this film? And did it change your outlook towards life?

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow – this sounds like a haunting film, one not easily forgotten. Thanks for reviewing it, because I don’t think I would’ve heard of it otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Manan Mehta says:

      You should definitely if you love watching films on existentialism. This one annoys too I wouldn’t deny but you’ll be in for a treat. BBC also listed this on its list of 21st Century Bests.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, an awesome movie. Time for a rewatch I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Manan Mehta says:

      This film really had me. One of the best creations in the 21st century if I am wrong.

      Like

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