WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
“Come to me.”
Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is one of the most talked about films of 2014 so far, and rightfully so. Taking around 10 years to come to the screen, the intricacy of Glazer’s film is something that commands attention.
When it comes to reviewing this tale of self-discovery and destruction however, Skin becomes almost impenetrable, a task best left to someone more skilled than myself. Like Upstream Colour, the film does not hold a difficult narrative, instead it is wrapped in a complex web that pushes the viewer away.
On the surface, however, it’s a tale of birth and death, and ones place in the world. We start with a beginning and an end. Like a snake, the skin is shed and passed on, left to be picked up by someone else. A sign of things to come. The lifecycle returns to the beginning. The person learns basic actions – the vowels and consonants and pronunciation of language. Then comes the development of personality, the choosing of the red lipstick and fur coat. Then, this newly constructed identity is tested, venturing out into the world like a child learning how to walk. There is more to learn, however. Innocence is lost, emotions are developed, empathy. She sees that she’s different to everyone else, that she doesn’t feel the expectations society places on her, the instinct she is supposed to possess. She fights against nature, howshe is engineered continuously through this accelerated maturity and ageing process, before it abruptly ends, breaking the cycle.
With stunning, striking, purely insane visuals, Glazer constructs a film that challenges with a bold vision. It is marketed as a powerful meditation on being a human, which I definitely agree with, but I never found myself being particularly moved by what was happening. Whether this was intentional or not, I’m unsure, but after an excellent opening, the second act (pardon the pun) alienated me slightly, almost putting me to sleep, only to be brought back by the eyepopping end to the second/start of the third act.
2014 continues to be the year of existential films, and, so far,Under the Skin comes out on top in its quest for finding deeper meaning within life. It’s not for everyone and is much easier to admire than adore, but should definitely be commended for what it creates, for which it will be definitely remembered.
Under the Skin received a limited release on May 29.