Under The Skin

by Patrick O'Connor

 

SCARLETT Johansson is one of Hollywood's top female stars with a string of hits, such as Lost In Translation, Girl with a Pearl Earring and Vicky Cristina Barcelona to her name.

So it is somewhat of a surprise to see her turn up taking the lead role in this independent, low-budget British offering.

Even more so, because she hardly says a word during the entire film. But don't let that put you off because Under The Skin is a sci-fi gem.

Johannson plays an alien who takes on the body of an attractive young woman in Glasgow, Scotland and travels around in a van luring young men back to her house with the promise of sex.

But once there, they are trapped in some sort of sticky, gluey liquid which it would appear turns them into a desirable commodity. I say 'would appear' because the plot leaves a host of unanswered questions and some people may find that irritating.

The film is seen through the alien's viewpoint so we have plenty of shots of Johansson, kitted out in black wig and bargain basement clothes, wandering the streets of Glasgow looking bemused although that could apply equally to a Hollywood superstar as to an alien visitor.

The alien's encounters with the men are brief, hence the sparsity of dialogue but Johansson demonstrates the full range of her acting skills by 'showing, not telling'. It is a mesmerising performance, especially as the alien begins to feel more conscious of her human body and relates with the people around her. Johansson manages to convey most of this by expression and body language alone.

Apparently some of the scenes where she picks up men were unscripted conversations with non-actors, filmed with cameras hidden in the van. The fact that the actress has twice been named the 'Sexist Woman Alive' by Esquire magazine must have meant some astonished looks when the men were informed as to what was really going on.

If you go to see this film, pencil in plenty of cafe/pub/restaurant time afterwards for an in-depth analysis because it really does get under your skin.