The fact that anyone is still discussing the issue of Scarlett Johansson getting her kit off in Under the Skin is surely proof of what I think the film is trying to critique. Men are punished for their human weakness in wanting to reach out, grab and penetrate Scarlett’s admittedly, fairly penetrable body; and are totally horrified when confronted by what lurks beneath. The Loachian choice of setting - View from the Transit Van Scotland - is sufficiently grey and mundane as to qualify for wider symbolic representation of Western society as a whole.
As my very smart friend Laura pointed out when we went to see the film last week, there seems to be a clear feminist subtext. That in the sleep, work, shop, shit and eat sequence of every day life there lurks a pervasive cynicism towards sex and intimacy, and an alarming reverence for the female body that nullifies any real reverence for the female herself. So the fact that people are still discussing the whys and hows of Scarlett acting naked in a really great film, scoring five stars in The Guardian and achieving widespread critical acclaim, sort of proves it right.
I could be wrong, but it’s difficult to imagine that a film as pared-down and repetitive as this isn’t functioning on some symbolic level. Plus there seems to be a clue in the title, and the confrontational promotion campaign in the shape of a Craigslist ad. You were tempted to click without even knowing her name. Are you sick or are you just human?
If the film’s directive is anything to go by, the answer for most of us is both.
TRUE BLUE - You were planning on spending this Valentine with Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt or Leo DiCaprio? Forget it: they are overbooked. Tonight, they have roughly ten million dates. Knowing that everybody is going to turn to these actors for comfort doesn’t make me feel special. And I need to feel special. So here’s my list of underrated movie boyfriends we don’t always think of but definitely should for companionship on Valentine’s Day. What’s yours?
Written by Clive Martin and me. Illustrations by Sam Taylor.