R: Under the Skin

‘That was TERRIBLE.’
– Anne

Yes. Under the Skin (2013) can become a mighty frustrating experience if you’re not used to watching films with a bit of a detachment & if you do not fancy Scarlett Johansson as much as some of us.

‘It was good.’
– Your Beloved Writer (S. M.)

Don’t be afraid, my Near and Dear ones. This film is a pretty striking and honest reflection on Scottish people and land. Again, don’t be afraid.

Scarlett, in the fanciest of outfits that northern streets offer, lures men into her place to turn them into living pickles. That is not a spoiler, because none of that is key to the experience of watching the film. And those things that are you have to see yourself.
However, it has to do with the image of Scotland, a hidden, almost unconscious image that (see the title) dwells somewhere beneath our habitual perception of day-to-day life.

You can see small ERUPTIONS of bodily passions, of human characteristics, of omnipresent disowned libido, bursting under the surface of ordinary crowded streets.
The spectator’s work is to look and consider.
Lots of things are to be touched upon: expressions of national and personal frustrations, innocence of nature in contrast to possible evil dwelling in it, xenophobia.
(And I am personally going to assassinate anyone who draws a connection between the black burning body and OIL.)

Now, if you haven’t, see Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993). It approaches the same cultural sphere, even though concerning pretty much whole Britain. What is different about these two films is the point-of-view they take. I use the term more specifically as the way the film approaches its topic through characters, or through the narrative techniques of camera and editing. These can have characteristic features to them, sometimes forming the point-of-view of a person, or even social class. Leigh’s film is delved in the lower-middle/low class environment. Skin stays away from it.

Both by the odd-behaving, estranged persona of Johansson and by the narrative that never dwells on, or familiarizes with any character or place the film retains a distanced view. This view, of course, belongs to the alien part of the story, but also tries to make things look objective, not because the filmmakers want to state any clear facts, but because anybody who does not feel the same way will be forced to rationally argue against it. (Kewl, dat cud b uesful.)

In time when Scotland is enjoying a rise of national awareness, it feels good to have a film that aids to it by its own reflective view. (And, yes, loads and loads about the film industry…)

Obviously it feels even better to see a Czech traveller saving natives from the sea, even though he ends up bashed in the head.
Poor film industries hand in hand towards a bright future.


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