Under the Skin – film review

24 Apr

Last month I went down to the Curzon in Soho – who wouldn’t want to eat a cheeky Konditor & Cook brownie before a film? – to watch the indie flick, ‘Under the Skin.’  I’d briefly looked at reviews, most of which seemed to be positive, and I thought the premise sounded interesting:

A voluptuous woman of unknown origin combs the highway in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lost souls into an otherworldly lair. They are seduced, stripped of their humanity, and never heard from again. Based on the novel by Michael Faber, this film examines human experience from the perspective of an unforgettable heroine who grows too comfortable in her borrowed skin, until she is abducted into humanity with devastating results.
Image

The thought of Scarlett Johannson as this ‘voluptuous’ woman (for some reason, it tickles me that this word is included in the description) roaming the grim landscape of Glasgow intrigued me.  I’m not a huge fan of her acting; I thought she was great in ‘Ghost World’ and ‘Lost in Translation’ is one of my favourite films, but since then, her sex-bomb Marilyn Monroe-esque image hasn’t really captivated me in any way (perhaps this is due to the fact that I am not a young, hot -blooded male).  Anyway, I’d heard that some of the scenes where she goes round to pick up men are real, filmed with hidden cameras, and that was definitely one of the better aspects of the film.  It was something of a novelty to watch Scarlett Johannson, an A list movie star, driving around in a van, trying to pick people up – it was interesting, awkward and comical at the same time.

What I had an issue with was the slow pace of the film.  I am usually a fan of slow films, lingering moments, and unspoken words that add something to the scene (for how to do this well, see the aforementioned ‘Lost in Translation’).  However, with ‘Under the Skin’ I felt that this was all there was – shots of Scarlett looking dazed into the distance, putting on lipstick, the beautiful but grim Glaswegian landscape etc – to the point that it started to dull any poignancy or impact it initially had.

The scenes where the men found their humanity stolen consisted of a naked man walking in slow motion into a black pool which ends up enveloping and trapping him.  I understand the significance of the image but found that the repetition of these scenes, accompanied with the dramatic music, unintentionally comical.

That aside, I did enjoy the second half where Scarlett the alien-type creature, has a touching moment with a severely disfigured young man, and starts to become more human, and there was a genuinely tense moment at the end when she is chased by a man in the woods and you see her emotional advancement.  However, I felt these parts were overshadowed by the fact that the film was too long and overly repetitive making what sounded like an amazing plot into something that was often dull and tedious to watch.

 

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