Monday, 5 October 2015

SILVER LININGS COLUMN-What's Really 'Under The Skin'?

Scarlett Fever.

(WARNING: Contains spoilers for the movie 'Under The Skin').

Under the bright lights of quite the Hollywood career, Scarlett Johansson has become one of the worlds biggest and best actresses. Whether under the Tokyo neons of coming of age in the Japanese classic 'Lost In Translation', or in the Marvel Avengers web of the Black Widow giving female superheroes and heroines more bite than just being a couple of legs. Heading into her 30th year and motherhood last year however seemed to also amazingly give her hardest working and best year in her career filmography. From her own big-budget blockbuster 'Lucy' to the best Avenger one and her most significant stint in the 'Captain America' sequel 'The Winter Soldier' that is leading to all sorts of 'Age Of Ultron' and 'Civil War' in Marvel's massive movie world domination. She didn't just kick ass however, inspiring indie from her applied vocals in the digital age future of Spike Jonze and Joaquin Phoenix's 'Her' that crushed more smart phones than drunk nights, to all she cooked up in the perfect recipe for 'Chef'...and then of course there was the one that really got 'Under The Skin'.

Driving round Glasgow in a pick-up truck picking up random men seems like a dream come true for Scotsmen or even a hidden camera gag and it was actually kind of both. Playing an alien driving round and looking for men to take home and kill may sound like 'Species' too, but this Johnathan Glazer movie has been called everything and anything from the best movie of its year, to one of the best British films of the decade and one of the most original and best science fiction movies ever made. After watching it yourself you'll forget asking what the hell Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson is doing in Scotland helping people find their way to Tesco and beyond when you witness a film that's had people hailing Glazer as the new Kubrick for bringing out even more shades of Scarlett, as the amazing actress shows she can be creepy and sexy at an inspired and unnerving way, all at the same time. And this classic is exactly that...smouldering and so, so sinister.

So you know what all the fuss is about...but what is it really all about? Peel back the layers of 'Under The Skin' and there's more than meets that outstanding optical opening that again is as captivating as it is eye-lid skin crawling. We live in a revolutionary movie age where things are much more subtle and hidden messages aren't exposed to us in exposition that instead of tapping us on the shoulder, hits us with a Spacey, 'Se7en' sledgehammer. After watching an extensive Youtube video on the meaning behind Jake Gyllenhaal's doppelganger movie 'The Enemy' that features spiders and hints to a subconscious desire to cheat, we wanted to see if there was a web of metaphors and messages within the skin of this film starring the Black Widow. A film that's been called everything from a "poetic meditation of loneliness" to a mirror help up to modern days evil, sex driven rape culture.

Our opinion lies somewhere between both as we think this film could be a metaphor for prostitution. With Scarlett's character driving round and making conversation with random men and would be suitors before offering to take them home only if they're "lonely" and have no family. In the inspired black, dark-room scenes where the sex looks to take Preying Mantis place before they sink into a cold tar like abyss that finishes them off after seemingly harvesting their organs whilst turning them into just "skin" we see more depth in this "void" of everything else. Where in more ways than one is the men giving themselves completely to Scarlett and sex. Like prostitution it's more than all the money and the act, its the loss if everything heart, soul, man-hood, what it means to be human.

Which raises another issue, who is the man on the bike that follows Johansson's character and "takes care" of everything and seemingly everyone (in one scene capturing an escapee like he "owed him something") with a threatening and imposing presence on Scarlett? Is he another alien? A human enabler or would be preventer? We even think he could be a pimp! And if this whole thing is on a Gyllenhaal subconscious level who is Scarlett? Is she really an alien...or just a girl who feels like one as she's lost all her humanity to prostitution that just makes victims out of everyone? This could even extend to the man that feels he can just have his way with her in a brutally evil forest, "lost in the woods" scene and even the subsequent shedding of her old skin scene and theme that then ultimately leads to her being burnt alive as her ashes rise to a foggy a phoenix! Rising again in rebirth like a woman who will no longer sell her body and soul for sex. Just a thought under review. Could that be an interpretation? Whatever it's really all about its a modern day classic now as hauntingly timeless as the tireless questions only a really iconic and influential movie like this raises. On the surface, this could be more than skin deep. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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