This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Eli Hayes’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
*THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW*
To be honest, I don't think that I have ever gone to see a movie in theatres twice before... not even some of my other favorite films. But after I went to go see Under the Skin last night, I knew that I had to see it again, and I knew that it had to happen immediately. So I went.
I can now safely say that I think this is one of the greatest films ever made, and most certainly one of the very greatest films of the past few years. It's not for everyone, but if you want to watch an abstract film with an incredible amount of social commentary, this one might be for you. My review is going to be spoiler heavy, so if you have yet to see this film and don't want to know about details of the plot, I urge you to return to this review after you've seen the film.
There is so much going on in Under the Skin that I couldn't possibly touch on all of it, even if I wanted to. Nonetheless I am going to attempt to break down some portions of this film that I found to be particularly insightful, and of course this analysis is going to be subjective and in no way factual. Rather it will be my personal interpretation of a film that I greatly admire. Here it goes (and I will not be dissecting the film chronologically):
1. Remember the scene in which Laura enters the fog? Did anyone else find the image of her within the fog to be particularly reminiscent of the white "room" toward the beginning of the film in which she removes the clothes from the women whose skin she has stolen? I view the scene of her entering the fog as Laura coming to terms with the fact that maybe humans, and they're world, aren't as different from her species as she'd like to think, and that maybe they don't deserve to be preyed on in the matter that she had been doing so. In other words, this is her realizing that she had made the right decision in freeing the disfigured man. By this point in the film, she has already become relatively humanized through the absorption of several men's souls. She exits the fog and emerges into a beautiful landscape (metaphorically exiting her world and entering ours) but in the next scene she attempts to eat a piece of cake, yet cannot swallow it; this verifies her differences and assures her that she is not one of us, that she could never be part of our world.
2. I truly believe that Under the Skin is, among other things, a study of psychopathology. Her emotional detachment and lack of empathy, as well as the way in which she goes about preying upon her victims is too similar to the manner of real life psychopaths; Glazer is obviously making a statement on the vulnerability of the lonely, and how they are at a greater risk of being taken advantage of in our society (even if it is not their fault, such as, again, the disfigured man).
3. An analysis of the scenes of Laura seducing the men as they sink into the depths of her trap would be particularly hard to verbalize, but its obvious to me that these scenes are commentary on how men view women in our over-sexualized society, and they're unhealthy obsession with the female body (which results in consequences such as eating disorders and women who feel as if their bodies need to be skinny and "perfect," when really this should not be the case; people should be able to feel comfortable about themselves in their own skin, i.e. the title of the film).
4. The fact that, in this film, aliens live among us allows me to believe that Glazer wants us to consider how we're not as in control of nature as we'd like to think. We believe that we're the ones in power, that we dominate this Earth, but this is simply not the case. We're vulnerable. We're small. We fall victim to natural disasters. We need to stop thinking that we have the right to destroy life that we do not use. Take only what you need.
5. I love some of the subtleties in Under the Skin, such as the two brief images of the children watching Laura through the window, or the elderly woman peering through the glass at the man on the motorcycle. It's as if these people are more aware of the existence of the aliens because they are outsiders themselves, people who are either too young to assimilate into the ignorance of society, or those who have grown into solitude. Another brief moment that I adore takes place in a kitchen: the composition of the shot of Laura following her tapping to the music - experiencing its emotional significance for the first time - where a wallpaper flower can be seen protruding from her head, as if three dimensional, connecting her to earthly nature.
6. During the first portion of the film, Laura is surrounded by machines and architecture and cityscape, objects without the life of our world within them, just as she did not contain the life of our world. But after absorbing a bit of humanity, the film quickly cuts to a shot of Laura on the beach, the site of her next victim. As the film progresses and Laura becomes more and more human, there is a decrease in cityscape and an increase in natural settings. Genius.
7. Fan's of Glazer should look out for the overhead shot during the almost-sex scene (haha) that is essentially a replication of the overhead shot of Anna and her husband, Joseph, during the sex scene in Birth. I thought this was an awesomely playful inclusion, and a reminder of how much I love this director. The almost-sex scene is also a particularly insightful scene for Laura, as well as the audience, because it's a reminder for us all that no matter how human she attempts to become, she does not have the organs beneath her skin that would allow her to indulge in any sort of sexual experience. The fact that Laura had nearly forgotten this made for a very moving scene.
8. The aspect of the film that I found to be most brilliant was the inclusion of the man on the motorcycle being able to track the disfigured man and capture him. Toward the beginning of the film, the man on the motorcycle had no problem tracking Laura, but as she began to become more and more humanized, it became more difficult for him to track her. Eventually, he no longer has the ability to do so (he can only track members of his own species). The kicker here, though, is the fact that he CAN track and capture the disfigured man. Why? Because, in our society, we treat the disfigured as if they're aliens. It's very sad that the only person the disfigured man can speak to, and touch, and connect with emotionally, is the alien itself.
The film ends within a forest, where Laura is surrounded by the life of plants and trees, an expanse of everything that she cannot be. She has come to this place in search of isolation, seclusion, but even here she only finds pain as she is preyed on by an attacker with no knowledge of what she really is (the predator becomes the prey). During this experience she gazes up at the sky and accepts her fate. For a second, we enter her point of view and look intently at the same sky that she does, the gorgeous blue sky that we're all blessed to be able to experience on a daily basis; how can an image so beautiful be juxtaposed with such a fiercely unpleasant scene? Because that is our world, both splendid and repulsive, wonderful and grotesque, sublime and hideous - a harsh place where anyone or anything that is considered different will not be accepted, and thus, will not survive.
A truly remarkable film.