Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Under the Skin Gets Under Your Skin

Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin stars Scarlett Johanssen as a woman...well...more of a creature, really...who drives around Scotland in a van picking up men. She's a beautiful but terrifying predator, but as she dispatches her lonely male victims one by one, it seems as though she begins to struggle with a growing conscience - with tragic consequences.

That's all I can really say about Under the Skin, one of the creepiest films I've seen in years, without spoiling the experience for others. (I feel it only fair to warn people, though, that the film includes one terribly disturbing sequence featuring a callously abandoned baby. There's also a moment of casual violence that's displayed with such frankness and realism that it's far more effective than any given gore-stained horror or action movie.)

Glazer delivers a moody, surreal experience that requires the viewer to piece together what exactly is going on; the narrative is somewhat opaque, but not so much that you can't grasp the sense of what's happening if you work at it. It also raises interesting questions about sexual politics and whether or not women, or even simulacra of women, can enjoy their own agency in popular culture, even in works of speculative fiction, which should, in theory, be more progressive than the mainstream (notwithstanding the large cohort of libertarian/free market fundamentalist SF authors).

Though not without issues, Under the Skin is an engaging, thoughtful and weird film that rewards the attentive viewer. 

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