In 2000 Michel Farber published a novel titled Under The Skin. The novel followed an alien named Isserley who is sent from to earth to harvest human meat, a delicacy on her home planet. The novel was a commentary on big business and factory farming. In 2014 Jonathan Glazer directed the film adaptation of the novel, though the film is vastly different from the novel.
Glazer takes the novel's plot and ideas and strips them down to a minimalistic visually and audibly beautiful and haunting piece of cinema. The alien, now unnamed is portrayed by Scarlett Johansson. She spends the film silently driving through Scotland picking up men and bringing them back to her lair. I use the term lair because there is no other word to describe where she, like a venus fly trap, entices and traps the men she has picked up. An endless black void that the alien walks on while her pray slowly sink into seemingly unaware, seemingly hypnotized by the seductive creature they have encountered.
Once they have sunk below the void's pitch black surface we see a haunting scene of what happens next.
The film is largely dialogue free and what little dialogue is in the film is delivered in thick scottish accents. This makes what is being said very difficult to understand. With this, we the audience feel similar to the alien, a stranger in a strange land, trying to understand and make out what is going on.
Under the Skin is dominated by hauntingly beautiful and breathtaking visuals. From the endless black void where the alien takes her prey to bustling inner city Scotland, and later in the story, the more rural Scottish farmlands each shot is beautifully crafted in a manner that draws you in.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the fact that very few of the men the alien picks up where actors. Many of them were simply people on the street, who upon getting into the van, where they would be told what was going on and the lengths that they would have to go to if they chose to be in the film. This gives the film a for realistic feel to it and the interactions, as a result are more natural and human than they would have been had the scenes been cast and scripted. The van that Johansson drove around in was outfitted with multiple hidden cameras to capture these encounters.
Mica Levi's haunting score complements the equally strong visuals that dominate the film. Levi's score, much like the film, is very minimal but incredibly haunting. Levi uses a simple recurrent simple drum beat accompanied by some of the creepiest strings ever heard. Check them out.
The film stays away from the more satirical tone of the novel, focusing much more on identity and sexuality. The film is not for everyone but those who want to be taken on a haunting visual journey should check out what lies under the skin.