Under the Skin Exegesis

Film:Under the Skin (2013)
GENRE: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller 
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Glazer

Under the Skin (2013) depicts a nameless woman, where in actuality is an alien who paroles the streets of Glasgow hunting down male victims through her sexual demeanor and beauty. She does so in order to gain sustenance for her survival and other alien companions who have also taken up human bodies as disguises. However through the course of the film, after learning and become aware of the intricacies of human behaviour and interactions, morality floods her emotions where she seeks to escape her life of entrapping victims, a pinnacle moment in the film where we see her true understanding of humanity.

The film is a complex adaptation of a seemingly simple storyline, commenting on the savagery of the human existence however also highlighting our innate yearn for love and mercy. It is in this paradoxical film which creates an eerie spectacle that is both haunting in atmosphere yet refreshing.

Director Jonathan Glazer, pays homage to feminism within the film, treating the female body as a canvas to deconstruct the sexualised projections women encounter. This is highlighted throughout the film with a climactic moment at the end of the film where the alien is stripped of her human role and metaphorically from her claimed womanhood. The following is a 20 second clip to dissect and critique.  


The scene depicts the alien coming out of her chosen skin, revealing a completely black body in the figure reminiscent to a human. It is the first time we see the alien in its true form, however under the gruesome circumstances of an attempted rape. She had awaken in the wilderness that she used as refugee only to be touched by unwanted hands by a logger she had met briefly prior. She quickly realises that she is in danger and attempts to escape the grasp of the man. Unsuccessful in escaping the force of the man, he rips at her temporary skin, shocked and scared he leaves her only to return by setting her alight with gasoline.

This scene is pinnacle to the film as it serves as a paradox to how the alien has appropriated human culture. Prior to her tragic death, she was a powerful seductress, embodying a confident and unscathed image of a woman. The attack projects the uncomfortable familiarity of the scenario where it happens all too much in society, the degradation of women at its highest. The scene reveals a breakdown of her human womanhood, commenting on the fragility of a powerful feminine state within society.

The scene is also a strong reminder that what we are scared of the most are the things we cannot understand, resulting in the brutal killing of the alien. It is truly a tragic scene which is heightened with an eerie yet ethereal score. It projects an other worldly sound with a single track repeated over pinnacle scenes throughout the movie. Used particularly during the aliens hunting scenes to create suspense, and finally juxtaposed in the final scene where the alien is not the hunter but has become the hunted.

The audience at this point has shifted from being frightened of the alien to being afraid for her. The lack of dialogue leaves the audience to empathise with the alien by deciphering what is on screen, her movements and expression as she reflects on the skin she once wore. Glazer helps to hone this empathic mood towards the alien by framing the camera in favour of her point of view. All the framing factors complement each other as the camera angles would not work without the score, where each element completes each other in the film, and works as whole. 





Sculpting In Frames. 2016. Under The Skin Analysis: A Study in Atmosphere. [ONLINE] Available at: https://bullshit.ist/under-the-skin-analysis-a-study-in-atmosphere-2bd74a991231. [Accessed 17 May 2017].

Sour Girl. 2014. These Girls On Film. [ONLINE] Available at: https://thesegirlsonfilm.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/on-jonathan-glazers-under-the-skin-2013-analysis-spoilers/. [Accessed 17 May 2017].



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