DELL’S GIRL WEEK BLOGATHON: SCARLETT JOHANSSON IN UNDER THE SKIN
Shout out to Dell who hosted this blogathon which I had fun with a couple of years ago, but unsurprisingly this time around I practiced my profession of procrastination. No matter, late is better than never, right? And I dig the concept, even if I am getting my entry in with mere hours to go. Anyhoos, here is my take on The Female, played by Scarlett Johansson, in Under The Skin.
Under The Skin must feature as having one of the most unique female leads in any film. Not that she really is a female of course, but that is the skin she is wearing and she uses it to her full advantage, pulling alongside drunken football fans and lonely people walking in the cold, sweet-talking them and appearing to be fully human until they leave- her face then seamlessly shifting from smiling brightly to showing nothing at all. Mica Levi’s score thumps along in the background as she drives the streets, scanning for prey. She is even driving a van! The placement of cameras, documentary style, inside the van adds even more heft to this dark atmosphere, as it feels we are spying on The Female and those in the passenger seat, further adding to the overall feeling of alienation. This is compounded further by the fact that she isn’t given a name.
Once she starts to lure her victims into her otherworldly pool of tar, she again is using her sexual allure to alter the judgement of her male visitors as they wallow forward after an undressing Female, lust clouding their minds, seemingly unaware that they are walking into black quicksand. The abductions are brutal in a very… different way, as it is her looks that kill, literally, as she doesn’t lay a hand on their lost, sinking, deflating souls.
The Female clearly changes as the film moves on, becoming more emotionally intelligent. Staring at her reflection in the mirror endlessly, watching the vibrant smiles among the crowds around her, and especially the pity she takes on one man. Soon her demeanor changes towards men and she is taken to bed by one she has just met. This is met with shocking results for her, and it seems clear that her purpose for being on Earth has been confused- she now can see these men as fellow humans inhabiting a body much like hers- but the initiation of sex shocks her violently as she discovers more about her body and its vulnerabilities..
Overlooking this strange operation seems to be an nonspeaking man on a motorbike; despite the feminine power The Female possesses, it seems that she is still reporting to a male. Despite this power she initially wields, it is her fall that proves to be truly fascinating, as she becomes increasingly disillusioned with the reasons keeping her on Earth. Precipitating her destruction is a violent act against her by a man and his terrified reaction. Karma perhaps?
While perhaps not intended to be so, Under The Skin provides some very interesting commentary of the allure of sexiness and how it can be misused, how it can mislead, and ultimately how it can possibly be more of a curse than anything else; the ending to the film would certainly suggest this. It is also interesting that such a powerful creature with such sway over any male she meets still has a male as her superior, though one would guess that he is an alien as well. In a world still dominated by males, it is interesting to watch this film with these themes in mind, as the interactions between The Female and the men she meets are incredibly unique, as she is obviously the one who is manipulative towards them. Ultimately though, it is a male who is her undoing.