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'Under the Skin' review: Sure to be sci-fi classic

Scarlett Johansson at a premiere of "Under the Skin."
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

under the skin movie


Bearing slight resemblance to its source material, the book by Michel Faber, “Under the Skin” has concocted a chilling masterpiece for critics but is too artsy for general audiences. A science fiction film stylized like the classic “2001: A Space Odyssey,” director Jonathan Glazer allows the viewer to get to the heart of the main character by isolating her.

The first few minutes set the tone and then shock when a naked woman (Scarlett Johansson) strips another and takes her clothing. As we watch this unusual woman wander, her motivations become clear; she attracts men in order to lure them to her striking lair. Without using much dialogue, we get to see how lonely her existence is as this alien woman tries to become comfortable in her own skin, find a place to belong, and learn to sympathize.

Uncomfortable from the beginning, “Under the Skin” balances silence with an eerie score by Mica Levi. The contrast is unsettling and leaves the audience on edge. Daniel Landin’s cinematography uses vast shots of the country to heighten the woman’s loneliness, but he flawlessly blends the sci-fi special effects and close-ups in her vehicle to feel confinement, as well.

Extremely different from the book, Glazer makes interesting changes that create more power than the novel. The woman does not have the imperfections seen in the novel, now allowing her to be clearly “of two worlds” rather than be deformed in both. She also seduces in the film, which gives her a more active, responsible role. Though the novel is a great read, the mood of Glazer’s “Under the Skin” is created by reaching the bared, raw struggle.

Not a film you’d describe as entertaining, “Under the Skin” will bore most viewers. Some will surely walk out, especially those touchy about nudity. But “Under the Skin” is a must watch as “2001” is; unlike the average film, these films need multiple viewings as they motivate their audiences to feel their stories and appreciate their unique storytelling.

Rating for “Under the Skin:” A-

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, see

“Under the Skin” is playing in two theatres in Columbus: Studio 35 and Gateway. For showtimes, see

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