Scarlett Johansson

Under the Skin: Why It’s Still One of Scarlett Johansson’s Best Movies

Under The Skin was a fascinating science fiction film. Let’s look at why it is one of Scarlett Johansson’s best films.

Under the Skin was co-written and directed by Jonathan Glazer in 2013. The film was based on Michel Faber’s novel of the same name, and follows an alien life form (played by Scarlett Johansson) disguised as a beautiful woman. On the surface, she seems like a normal woman, but on the inside, she is a deadly predator. She lures men through her sexuality only to capture and slowly kill them. She is on an unknown task and was obviously sent here from another planet to prey on men.

Under the Skin is fantastic for several reasons. It is a highly original science fiction film and Johansson delivers a subtle, yet very effective, performance. What’s more, Glazer’s film is creepy from start to finish. At the same time, it has many underlying and thought-provoking themes. It also has a chilling score throughout the film from Mica Levi. Overall, Under the Skin was highly regarded by critics and received several awards. With that said, it was not a box-office success and only grossed around $7 million. Despite that, it is still an amazing film, and one of Scarlett Johansson’s best. Here’s why.

Scarlett Johansson’s Performance

Johansson gives one of her finest performances of her career in Under the Skin. What is so impressive about her performance is that she seldom talks throughout the movie. She expresses her emotions, or lack thereof, solely through her physicality and demeanor. Johansson gives a chilling performance as an unsympathetic serial killer of humans. It is no easy task for an actor to take on the role of an alien, but Johansson does it with ease. She also conveys the confusion that her character feels with her own identity brilliantly. We seldom see Johansson take on roles such as this, so it was refreshing to see her play a darker character, one that she totally pulled it off.

The Visual Effects

BFI / Film4

The visual effects in Under the Skin are top-notch. The scenes where Johansson’s character brings her prey for execution are eerie and terrifying. We watch as her prey follows her, only to be engulfed by a mysterious liquid. With one of her victims, we see the process in which he is “digested”. Then, we see a red stream of liquid which is possibly the remains of her victims going to an unknown location. At the same time, when Johansson’s character strips her human flesh, we see a great CGI alien that is unsettling and unique. All and all, the special effects were effective from beginning to end. The film is artistic, and the visual effects are filled with distinct colors representing the overall tone of the film.

The Underlying Themes

BFI / Film4

Although there is limited dialogue throughout Under the Skin, there are several themes expressed from beginning to end. One of the major themes is self-identity. Johansson’s character begins to have an identity crisis when she forms a somewhat romantic relationship with a human. She begins to be uncomfortable in her own skin and very confused. This can be related to many topics such as gender identity. Another theme expressed throughout the film is captivity. We see a shot at one point of a fly trapped in a window frame, possibly representing her victims. There are also many themes around sexualizing women, resulting in violence. In this film, however, the roles are reversed, and it is Johansson’s character who is the dangerous one.

The Unsettling Tone and Atmosphere

BFI / Film4

One of the reasons that Under the Skin is such an effective film is the creepy atmosphere from beginning to end. The film also has a brilliant score that is bone chilling. At many points, the film and the characters’ interactions seem so real, it is as if you are watching a documentary. In fact, according to Time, the men that Johansson’s character picks up on the street are real people: in full costume, Johansson drove a van through the streets of Scotland, dressed in full character, and stopped to talk to real people.

Indeed, Johannson is the focus of the film, and her character is eerie every minute that she is on-screen. It is not an uplifting film in any sense. It pulls out feelings of dread and hopelessness in nearly every frame. The camera work, cinematography, and score all blend together to create an unsettling film that is very unique. One of the major unsettling aspects of the film is a lack of dialogue. The ensuing silence adds a creepiness, making this a bone-chilling science fiction film.

Ultimately, Under the Skin was a highly original piece of science fiction. It tells its story through the eyes of an alien life form who was sent to earth to kill human men. Johansson is the center of the brilliance, and proved, once again, her capabilities as an actor. It is not an uplifting movie once so ever, but it is extremely thought-provoking and definitely deserves to be viewed. Glazer pulled off a very effective science fiction film with its characters and its question of what it means to be human as the focus.

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